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What is Day Blooming Jessamine?

Day blooming jessamine is originally from the West Indies but can now be found in many places as an ornamental shrub or tree.  If your horse ingests this plant for an extended period of time, it will lead to calcification of soft tissues and increased calcification of bones.  Symptoms can be very vague so that you don’t realize the severity of the condition.  Symptoms may present as stiffness and lameness, signs of which could indicate many illnesses or injuries.  You will need your veterinarian to perform diagnostics so the condition can be properly identified and so you can prevent it from worsening.

Ingestion of day blooming jessamine leads to calcification of tissues within the body that should not be, such as arteries and tendons.  If your horse has been getting progressively stiff or lame, contact your veterinarian for an evaluation.

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Symptoms of Day Blooming Jessamine in Horses

  • Chronic weight loss despite normal appetite
  • Stiffness
  • Lameness 
  • Prolonged periods of lying down
  • Calcified ligaments
  • Calcified tendons
  • Calcified arteries
  • Calcification of kidneys 
  • Excesses bone formation 
  • Increased bone density
  • Increased calcification of cartilage
  • Increase calcification of growth plates 

Types

Day blooming jessamine, also known as wild jessamine, is an ornamental tree introduced from the West Indies.  The scientific name is Cestrum diurnum.  It is a tree that can grow up to sixteen feet tall but can also be seen in its smaller shrub size.  The leaves are dark green and glossy and produce a white, fragrant tubular like flower.  This plant also produces green berries that turn black when ripe after flowering has occurred.

Causes of Day Blooming Jessamine in Horses

The day blooming jessamine contains a toxin similar to the active metabolite of vitamin D.  This means if your horse ingests it, he will absorb excessive amounts of calcium.  The increase in calcium results in a high blood calcium concentration which can lead to inhibition of normal bone resorption, which can cause excessive bone formation.  Prolonged periods of ingestion can lead to tissue calcinosis which means the calcification of elastic tissues including tendons, ligaments, and arteries.

Diagnosis of Day Blooming Jessamine in Horses

Your veterinarian will begin by performing a full physical exam on your horse.  It will allow her to assess him as a whole and note all of his symptoms.  If he is experiencing stiffness or lameness, she may put him through a series of exercises and trot him to try and diagnose the cause.  Lameness in a horse can be fairly common so she will need to rule out other possible causes before she suggests it is a symptom of a possible toxicity.

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.  Lab work to check kidney function specifically will also be recommended.  The CBC and general chemistry panel can provide diagnostics on the general function or dysfunction of the kidney, but your veterinarian may want more detailed diagnostics. In cases of day blooming jessamine poisoning, the lab work will show an elevated serum calcium concentration.

Radiographic imaging will also be very important when diagnosing this toxicity.  Since it causes incorrect tissues to calcify and increased bone density, a radiograph will show this.  This is not a common symptom you see with many conditions so imaging is very important.  She may even go as far as to suggest an MRI for a more detailed look at the excess calcification in the body.

Treatment of Day Blooming Jessamine in Horses

You will need to remove the source of the day blooming jessamine plant immediately to prevent further ingestion.  The longer your horse ingests it, the more calcium his body will absorb.  His symptoms will progress and the calcification within his body will get worse.  Also, by changing his feed to something with a better source of nutrition, he will begin to gain weight again.

Your veterinarian may want to do fluid therapy with a combination of normal saline, furosemide, and a glucocorticoid.  It is believed administration of this combination may reduce calcium concentration in the body system.  This would be ideal since there is calcium where it should not be. There is no exact treatment your veterinarian can offer your horse.  She can provide supportive therapies and keep your horse comfortable.

Recovery of Day Blooming Jessamine in Horses

There is no recovery for plant induced calcinosis.  If your horse is not so severely affected and you prevent him from eating any more of the day blooming jessamine, recovery is likely.  You will need to ensure your horse is provided a good quality diet and that he not be placed in a pasture or pen containing this plant or any other calcinosis-inducing plants.