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Buddhist pine is an evergreen that has soft, flat needle-like leaves that are abruptly pointed at the tips. The upper sides of the leaves are dark green while the underside is a lighter green. The leaves will be arranged in either a flat plane or a spiral shape. The seeds of a Buddhist pine are hard and dark brown or bluish. They have a nut-like shape and will be found inside a red fleshy fruit that grows on the underneath of the new twigs.
All parts of the Buddhist pine are toxic to horses, with the leaves being the most toxic. The ingestion of Buddhist pine can be fatal to your horse. It remains toxic even when dried.
Buddhist pine is a part of the Podocarpaceae family and included with the yew varieties. Buddhist pine can also be called podocarpus, Japanese yew, southern yew or yew pine. The Buddhist pine is very toxic to horses, although it is unknown as to what the toxic principles are that cause the most common symptoms of diarrhea and sudden death.
Time is important when your horse is suffering from Buddhist pine poisoning. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect that your horse has ingested any part of the plant. Sudden death will generally occur two to three hours after your horse has ingested Buddhist pine. Other symptoms to look for include:
The exact cause of Buddhist pine poisoning in horses is unknown. Horses need only to ingest 0.1% of their body weight for Buddhist pine to be lethal. Most cases of Buddhist pine poisoning are diagnosed postmortem and only when there are still parts of the plant still within the horse’s digestive tract.
It has been determined that all parts of the Buddhist pine are toxic to horses. Therefore, the plant should never be allowed to grow in or near your horse’s pasture.
Prior to your veterinarian arriving, remove your horse from their pasture and put them in a clean, well bedded stall. Monitor them closely, watching for any additional symptoms or worsening symptoms.
Once your veterinarian arrives, they will complete a physical examination and will look for possible culprits to your horse’s illness. If possible, have samples of your horse’s hay and any plants within their pasture that they may have been eating.
A complete blood count, urinalysis, fecal examination and biochemistry panel will help your veterinarian rule out other illnesses and plant poisonings.
In many cases, the horse has suddenly died beside the offending plant making the diagnosis easier. However, the only way to conclusively diagnose Buddhist pine poisoning is by conducting a necropsy after your horse has died.
There is no antidote for Buddhist pine poisoning in horses. Your veterinarian will insist on immediate hospitalization so your horse can be monitored and have supportive care administered. IV fluid and nutrition therapy will be given to keep your horse from becoming dehydrated.
Your veterinarian will treat the symptoms as they present. Medications will be limited to an as needed basis to ensure that the Buddhist pine toxins do not interact with the medications being used to treat your horse. Activated charcoal will be given to absorb and bind any toxins that are still in your horse’s stomach and keep them from entering your horse’s bloodstream.
Your veterinarian will discuss the options available for your horse once they have begun supportive care. In most cases of Buddhist pine poisoning where symptoms have presented, death results within just a few hours.
Your horse’s prognosis is very poor when diagnosed with Buddhist pine poisoning. While some horses are able to make a full recovery, most experience sudden death before a veterinarian can even reach them for treatment.
Your best preventative for Buddhist pine poisoning is to practice meticulous pasture management and to know what your horse is eating. Do not allow anyone to put any plant clippings in your horse’s pasture. The Buddhist pine remains toxic even when dried. If you find Buddhist pine within your pasture, dig it up by the roots and burn. Then use a pasture safe herbicide in the location of the Buddhist pine to ensure that all parts including the roots have been eradicated.
Do not feed hay that may be contaminated with Buddhist pine. Complete walk-throughs of your hay fields prior to cutting and remove any potentially poisonous plant. If you purchase your hay from another source, ask about their field maintenance to ensure that nothing that will harm your horse has found its way into their hay.
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