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What is False Acacia Poisoning ?

False acacia is a plant known by many other names and contains toxins that cause protein synthesis and gastrointestinal irritation.  Clinical symptoms of toxicity your horse may develop can be vague, so diagnostics will need to be performed in order for your veterinarian to come to a proper cause of symptoms.  Treatment is supportive and supplemental as there is no antidote.  Death from false acacia ingestion can occur but is rare; therefore prognosis of recovery is good if prompt attention is obtained.

False acacia is a tree found in many regions of multiple soil types and can be poisonous to your horse if he ingests it.  If you notice your horse acting odd or witnessed him eating this plant, contact your veterinarian immediately.

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Symptoms of False Acacia Poisoning in Horses

Symptoms of poisoning may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Anorexia
  • Depression
  • Papillary dilation 
  • Mydriasis
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea 
  • Posterior paralysis
  • Laminitis 
  • Irregular pulse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Death (uncommon)

Types

Scientifically, the false acacia is known as Robina pseudoacacia and belongs to the Papilionaceae family. It is also known by the common names of black locust tree, yellow locust, bastard acacia, black acacia, pea flower locust, and locust tree.  This plant is an ornamental tree with compound leaves and unbranched spines similar to that of a rose thorn.  This tree can be found in dry woodlands, fencerows, roadsides, old fields, and pinelands.  It is a plant that thrives in clay soils but can also be found in sandy soils as well.

Causes of False Acacia Poisoning in Horses

The false acacia produces and contains two toxalbumins that can cause toxicity symptoms in your horse.  The toxins are known as phytotoxin robinin and glycoside robitin.  These toxins cause an emetic and purgative effect on the one who ingests it.  The toxin can be found in the bark, seeds, and flowers of the plant.  While the exact purpose of the toxin is unknown, the main effects of the toxin are protein synthesis and gastrointestinal irritation.

Diagnosis of False Acacia Poisoning in Horses

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 he is experiencing diarrhea, she will run a series of fecal tests to check for possible causes such as intestinal parasites or bacterial overgrowth.

If your horse is experiencing any type of incoordination or other CNS symptoms, your veterinarian may want to run a series of neurologic 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 ailment.  Of course, if your horse dies you can request a necropsy in order to determine the cause.  This will give you a complete diagnosis to ensure none of your other horses suffer from the same illness.  Necropsy findings from false acacia poisoning can include lesions on and within the gastrointestinal tract.

Treatment of False Acacia Poisoning in Horses

If your horse is experiencing a lack of appetite, she may try to tube feed him in order to keep his digestive system moving.  If his GI tract comes to a halt, it can lead to additional symptoms.  She will start fluid therapy to ensure he stays hydrated and to flush the toxin out of his system.  Diarrhea is a major source of water loss in a horse so ensuring he stays hydrated is very important for his recovery.

You will need to keep your horse stalled in order to closely monitor him and to keep him comfortable during treatments.  Additional therapies will be determined by the symptoms your horse is experiencing.  She will treat symptomatically as symptoms appear.  If he is suffering from breathing difficulties, she may want to supplement him with oxygen.  

You will need to remove your horse from the source of the false acacia plant immediately to prevent further ingestion.  The longer your horse ingests it, the more severe his symptoms will become.  There is no exact treatment your veterinarian can offer your horse.  She can provide supportive therapies and keep your horse comfortable.

Recovery of False Acacia Poisoning in Horses

Death from false acacia toxicity has been noted to happen, but it is uncommon.  If you are able to remove your horse from the plant source, prevent further ingestion, and provide him with appropriate supportive therapy, his prognosis of recovery is good.  If your horse happens to be one of the rare few to die from false acacia ingestion, a necropsy is highly suggested.  It will allow for a proper diagnosis of his cause of death and can help you prevent similar fates for your other horses.