What is Lupine Poisoning?
Lupines are a part of the legume family and their flowers have five petals. Usually, their flowers are a shade of blue or purple. Some species can have red, yellow or white flowers. The seeds of lupines are small and cream colored; they are irregular circular shaped and contain a pod that is about an inch long.
Lupines remain toxic even when dried and can be found in some hay. Keeping lupines out of your horse’s pasture and away from fencing is important to prevent your horse from ingesting any lupines that can be toxic.
Lupines, or better known as bluebonnets, are a group of plants that have both annuals and perennials. Some species of lupines are not poisonous, while others are extremely toxic. It can be difficult even for experts to tell between some species of lupines and therefore it is much easier to just assume that all lupines can be toxic to horses.
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Symptoms of Lupine Poisoning in Horses
It can be difficult to pinpoint what is causing your horse distress. If you notice your horse acting strangely, remove him from the pasture and put him in a deeply bedded stall. Remove all food and hay from the stall and contact your veterinarian. Be sure to take note of any symptoms that you see as well as any changes to your horse’s diet that may help your veterinarian make a positive diagnosis.
- Diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems
- Changes in gait
- Reluctance to move
- Muscle spasms or convulsions
- General excitement or agitation
- Loss of muscle control
- Difficulty breathing
- Aimless wandering
- Muscle twitching
- Excessive salivation
- Death, usually through respiratory arrest
Causes of Lupine Poisoning in Horses
Lupines will vary in the amount of toxins present, depending on the species, the growing conditions and the time of year. Lupinine is the toxin that is found in lupines. It is an alkaloid that is concentrated mainly in the seeds, making the seeds the most dangerous part of the plant. The pods that contain the seeds also have a high level of lupinine. There are minimal amounts of lupinine found in the leaves and fruits of lupines.
Most lupine poisonings in horses occur in the fall and winter months. This is because lupines will stay green longer than most other plants, making them more palatable. Their pods are usually tall enough that snow does not cover them, making them convenient for horses.
Diagnosis of Lupine Poisoning in Horses
Your veterinarian will begin by completing a full physical examination. They will also ask you questions about your horse’s symptoms and their diet. Blood samples, urine samples, and fecal samples will be taken and sent off for toxicology screenings. Feed and hay analysis will also need to be completed to try to locate the source of the poisoning.
Your veterinarian will also want to do a walk through of your horse’s pasture. They will be searching for anything that could be toxic to your horse and be causing its symptoms.
Treatment of Lupine Poisoning in Horses
Unfortunately, there is no antidote for lupine poisoning in horses. Your veterinarian will provide a treatment plan that will hopefully allow your horse to fully recover from ingesting the toxin.
Supportive care will be required for your horse. This will usually require hospitalization along with intravenous fluids to keep your horse hydrated and deliver the necessary nutrients for them to remain strong enough to combat the toxins within their body. Rest within a stall with lots of clean, dry bedding will help your horse be more comfortable once home. Monitoring your horse 24/7 for any changes to their condition is essential in treating symptoms quickly to help their body decontaminate.
As symptoms present, your veterinarian will need to treat those symptoms to keep them from progressing to the point of debilitating your horse. Medications will vary depending on the symptom being treated. Your veterinarian will discuss each new addition to your horse’s treatment plan as new symptoms present.
Recovery of Lupine Poisoning in Horses
Depending on the amount of lupine that your horse ingests, a full recovery is possible. However, if your horse is continuously exposed to lupines or ingests a large quantity, it can be fatal for your horse. This is especially true when being fed hay that is infested with lupines.
Preventing your horse from ingesting lupines is the best way to keep them from becoming poisoned. Always check your pasture and surrounding areas; where your horse can reach through the fence, clear of all lupine species. When cutting your hay, be sure to remove all lupine species from your field prior to cutting the hay. If you purchase your hay from another source, find out if there are any lupines that might have been included in the cuttings that you are purchasing.