What is Black Walnut Tree Poisoning?
Many horse owners like to provide their horses with nice bed shavings to keep them comfortable and warm. Sometimes unknowing owners can actually purchase or get the wrong type of bedding which can end up being toxic to the horse. Black walnut shavings are one of these types. If you use it as bedding for your horse, a combination of contact, inhalation, and ingestion can lead to symptoms of toxicity. Laminitis-like symptoms are the most frequently seen symptoms that can develop less than 24 hours of being on the black walnut bedding. Your veterinarian will need to run blood work to see how serious the toxicity is and perhaps other diagnostic tests as well. Treatment is mainly supportive and if it is started sooner versus later, his prognosis of recovery is excellent.
The black walnut tree is commonly found in the eastern region of the United States. While many people like it for it’s nice wood qualities, it can cause toxicity in your horse. If your horse has been exposed to the black walnut tree and is acting abnormally in any way, contact your veterinarian immediately.
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Symptoms of Black Walnut Tree Poisoning in Horses
The severity of the symptoms from black walnut tree poisoning can vary depending on how long your horse is exposed to it. Symptoms may include:
- Shifting legs
- Warm hoof walls
- Digital pulses
- Egg shell stance
- Hot feet
- Reluctance to move
- Neck sweating
- Shoulder sweating
The most common form of poisoning from black walnut tree is from using the shavings as bedding. If the bedding is over 20 percent black walnut shavings, clinical signs of toxicity appear. Shavings that are aged or old are both toxic, but it is believed if the shavings have been exposed to air for more than one month they are less toxic.
Causes of Black Walnut Tree Poisoning in Horses
The cause of poisoning from the black walnut tree is unknown. Scientists once believed it was juglone, an element found in the tree. However, when scientists tried to recreate the effects through topical application or oral ingestion, they were unsuccessful, indicating this was not the actual cause.
Diagnosis of Black Walnut Tree Poisoning in Horses
The veterinarian will begin by performing a physical exam on your horse. She will want to make note of any and all symptoms your horse is experiencing. She will also want to collect a history from you as to what your horse has been in contact with recently. The veterinarian may walk the paddock and pasture areas as a part of the diagnostic process and may ask to observe the stall belonging to your horse. She will also ask questions such as when the symptoms started, if they have worsened, if you have changed anything in your horse’s routine lately such as offering him a new food or supplement, and so on.
She will also want to run blood work to check for a cause of his symptoms. A complete blood count and chemistry panel will give her the information she needs to help with her diagnosis. The blood work will indicate if there is an infection, how his organs are handling the toxin, and if he is experiencing any degree of anemia or other health condition.
If she is still unable to come up with a diagnosis, she will start ruling out possible causes of his symptoms in order to come to the correct conclusion.
Treatment of Black Walnut Tree Poisoning in Horses
Treatment for your horse suffering from black walnut tree poisoning is mainly supportive. To begin, you should remove your horse from the stall containing the black walnut bedding to a clean stall with proper, safe bedding. Make sure there are no black walnut shavings in the vicinity at all in order to offer your horse the best chance at recovery.
If your horse is experiencing pain, she will offer him anti-inflammatory medications as well as pain management therapies to keep him comfortable and moving. In some cases, you may need to call a farrier for him to provide corrective shoeing if needed, particularly if laminitis is a threat.
Ensuring your horse continues to eat and drink is also important to his recovery process. If he does not, secondary conditions will develop and his recovery will be more complicated.
Recovery of Black Walnut Tree Poisoning in Horses
Death from black walnut poisoning is extremely rare. However, it has been known to happen as a result of complications of the laminitis-like symptoms. The best thing you can do for your horse is prevent black walnut poisoning in the first place. Be sure to buy his bedding from a knowledgeable dealer and do your homework on types of bedding before changing anything. If you have this tree on your property, keep your horse in a pasture away from it to prevent any type of contact that may lead to harm. If your horse does develop black walnut poisoning, starting supportive treatment as soon as possible is ideal.