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What is Carolina Jessamine Poisoning?

The Carolina jessamine plant is a woody evergreen with trumpet-shaped yellow flowers.  This plant contains many alkaloids that can cause neurotoxicity in your horse.  It is said most cases of poisoning happen accidentally in the winter on pastures where the quality of other plants and grasses are poor and there is nothing else for your horse to eat.  Symptoms may start out as general weakness but progress to symptoms of high concern such as a weak pulse or breathing difficulties.  There is no antidote for Carolina jessamine poisoning which means prognosis of recovery is poor.  It is recommended you keep your horse on a good quality feed or hay, especially in the winter when natural sources are scarce.

Carolina jessamine toxicity can cause central nervous system (CNS) depression symptoms or even respiratory distress.  If your horse is acting abnormally or seems to be using increased effort to breathe, contact your veterinarian immediately.

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Symptoms of Carolina Jessamine Poisoning in Horses

Symptoms may include:

  • Ataxia 
  • Weakness 
  • Incoordination
  • Dilated pupils
  • Decreased body temperature
  • Weak pulse 
  • Muscle convulsions
  • Respiratory distress
  • Respiratory paralysis 

Types

The Carolina jessamine is also known by the common names of evening trumpet-flower, evening trumpet vine, yellow jessamine, woodbine and false jasmine.  Scientifically this plant is known by belonging to the family Loganiaceae genus Gelsemium with varying species.  It is a woody evergreen type of plant with vines and flowers that bloom in a trumpet shape.  It can climb high into other plants or can crawl along the ground.

Causes of Carolina Jessamine Poisoning in Horses

The toxin found within the Carolina jessamine can lead to neurotoxicity in your horse.  This plant contains multiple alkaloids and is what causes the paralysis.  The most abundant alkaloids found in this plant include gelseminine, gelsemine, gelsevirine, gelsemoidine, gelsemicine, gelsenicine, and koumidine.  These toxins can be found in all parts of the plant but can be found in higher concentrations in the roots.  The alkaloids build up in the system and have a cumulative effect on the nervous system.  Scientists believe the alkaloid gelsemine, most commonly found in the flower and interfere with nerve transmission. Most cases of Carolina jessamine toxicity in horses occur in the winter season when pasture quality may be poor.

Diagnosis of Carolina Jessamine Poisoning in Horses

To begin her diagnosis, your veterinarian will start by performing a full physical exam.  She will make note of all of your horse’s symptoms and get details from you about when they started and if they have been getting worse.  The smallest detail may help her rule out other possible causes of his symptoms.   

She will want to perform lab work so she can check his organ values and levels in his blood.  She will suggest a complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panel to check for abnormalities.  Depending on the results, she may want to run more in depth blood related tests. 

If your horse is experiencing any type of incoordination or other CNS symptoms, your veterinarian may want to run a series of neurological tests to try and determine the cause.  If your horse is experiencing breathing difficulties and she cannot confirm the cause via auscultation alone, she may want to take radiographs to check his lungs for air, fluid, masses, or other possible abnormalities. There may be other tests your veterinarian will want to run in order to rule out other possible causes of your horse’s condition.

Treatment of Carolina Jessamine Poisoning in Horses

Unfortunately, there is no antidote to Carolina jessamine toxicity.  However, your veterinarian can offer symptomatic treatment.  Your veterinarian may want to flush your horse’s stomach to rid his system of the toxin contents and then administer activated charcoal.  The charcoal will absorb the toxin instead of allowing the body to continue to absorb more of it.  

Your horse may also need to be started on fluid therapy to prevent dehydration and to flush any remaining toxin from his system.  In cases with respiratory distress or paralysis, oxygen support may be needed.  Other treatment will be supportive therapy in response to your horse’s symptoms as they appear.

Recovery of Carolina Jessamine Poisoning in Horses

Once clinical symptoms develop, prognosis of recovery is guarded.  Most owners do not even realize their horse is sick until he is down. Supportive treatments can be offered but chance of recovery is low.  Be proactive and prevent your horse from ingesting the Carolina jessamine. Be sure your horse is always on a good quality pasture.  If it is winter and your pasture is suffering, consider buying feed for your horse instead.

Carolina Jessamine Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Evernote
Florida Cracker
8
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

I am looking into purchasing a horse that suffered from jasmine posioning a year ago. He's gotten better by leaps and bounds from his original state but some tendons in his legs have shortened. What long term effects does jasmine poisoning cause? I would be finishing this horses rehabilitation and helping him along but I am not sure if I should go through with the purchase or not. The owners of the aforementioned horse lunged him for me and he seemed a little stiff. She said this was do to the fact that he got more exercise than usual today, however, I'm worried it could be from lameness instead of soreness and I was wondering on top of if jasmine poisoning causes lameness and if so is it usually long term.

Health Expert
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1722 Recommendations
Before purchasing any horse you should have a full prepurchase examination carried out by your Veterinarian which should include x-rays and where appropriate ultrasound of tendons. I cannot make a recommendation that you purchase this horse since I haven’t performed an examination; your Veterinarian will also be more familiar with cases in your area and can guide you accordingly. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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