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What is Pride of India Poisoning?

This tree can grow up to about 50 feet ta with shiny green leaves approximately 18 inches long. Although it is native to India and Australasia, it can now be found in most places around the globe, including many states in North America. The light purple flowers grow in clumps and are about one inch across when fully mature. The ripe fruits, which contain the most toxins, are a dark yellow to light brown and hang in clusters where they are all winter long. There are four tetranortriterpenes (meliatoxins A1, A2, B1, and B2) that are involved with most of the symptoms of Pride of India poisoning.

Pride of India poisoning is a serious condition that can become life-threatening quickly if not treated right away. When owning horses, you do not see them as much as you would other animal companions such as dogs and cats; therefore, you are not able to see what they may be consuming as they graze. Because of this, it is important to keep their grazing areas maintained to prevent poisoning. The Pride of India tree can reach a height of 50 feet so it is not hard to spot if you are out in the fields. There are several toxins in the tree, most concentrated in the berries, which include meliatoxins (tetranortriterpenes), resin-margosin, various alkaloids and glycosides. The berries are the most toxic, but the rest of the tree contains toxins of varying amounts.

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Symptoms of Pride of India Poisoning in Horses

If your horse consumed any part of a Pride of India plant, especially the berries, you should call your veterinarian. Do not wait until you see the symptoms, which may include:

  • Agitation
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Drooling
  • Appetite loss
  • Blood in stool
  • Slow heart rate
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Incoordination
  • Staggering gait
  • Stiff muscles
  • Muscle spasms
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Heart attack
  • Death

Types

The scientific name for Pride of India is Melia azedarach from the Meliaceae family. Some of the additional common names include:

  • White cedar
  • Texas umbrella tree
  • Persian lilac
  • Paradise tree
  • Japanese bead tree
  • Bead tree
  • Chinaberry tree
  • China Ball tree
  • Ceylon cedar
  • Cape lilac

Causes of Pride of India Poisoning in Horses

There are several toxins in the Pride of India tree, which include:  

  • Alkaloids
  • Glycosides
  • Margosin
  • Tannic acid
  • Tetranortriterpenes (meliatoxins)

Diagnosis of Pride of India Poisoning in Horses

Diagnosing your horse may be difficult unless you actually see your pet consuming the tree or find plant debris in your horse’s stool. Waiting until the symptoms start is risky because once the signs of poisoning are evident, it may be too late to save your horse. Because there is no effective antidote to Pride of India poisoning, getting a diagnosis and treatment right away is your horse’s only real chance for survival. A physical examination will be done and the veterinarian will draw some blood and get urine and a stool sample for laboratory tests. Also, an x-ray may be able to show signs of plant material in the stomach. Other than that, the veterinarian will likely go right to treating your horse to be on the safe side.

Treatment of Pride of India Poisoning in Horses

Treatment must be given within the first few hours to be completely effective. Aggressive treatment for Pride of India poisoning includes decontamination, fluids, oxygen, medication, and hospitalization in severe cases.

Decontamination

In an effort to decontaminate your horse, active charcoal will be administered orally to bind the toxins that have not yet been absorbed. In addition, a gastrointestinal lavage is helpful in rinsing away undigested plant particles and residue. This is done by inserting a gastric tube into the mouth and using warm saline to flush the intestinal tract and stomach.

Fluids and Oxygen

If your horse is having trouble breathing, oxygen will be administered right away with a mask or nasal cannula. Intravenous (IV) fluids are also given to increase circulation and flush the kidneys. This procedure also helps prevent dehydration caused by diarrhea.

Medication

Hodernal (paraffin oil) and Rimadyl may be given to counteract some of the toxins and their side effects, NSAIDs to help with pain, and stomach protectants to ease the gastric irritation.

Hospitalization

If your horse ate a large amount of Pride of India, the veterinarian may suggest an overnight stay in the hospital for observation. This is a good idea in case your horse needs additional treatment right away that you may not be able to provide.

Recovery of Pride of India Poisoning in Horses

Your horse’s prognosis is not good once the symptoms start so it is best to get medical treatment right away if you even suspect that your horse ate any part of a Pride of India tree. If you are able to get treatment right away, the chance of recovery improves but is still guarded. The best treatment is prevention; you should be carefully examining your fields where your horse is allowed to graze. Consulting an expert on noxious weeds and plants is an avenue that many owners of horses and livestock take on a regular basis as a precaution against accidental toxicity.