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What is Purslane Poisoning ?

Oxalates in the purslane plant cause serious imbalances within your horse’s system if left to graze in a field that is infested with Purslane. When large quantities of soluble potassium and sodium oxalates are eaten, they are absorbed into the bloodstream. Once there, they form insoluble calcium and magnesium oxalates. It is this process which then causes the kidneys to fail. How severe the poisoning is depends on the amount of plant eaten and how long your horse has been eating it.

Purslane is a low growing weed causing poisoning in your horse due to the high levels of oxalates that can cause kidney failure.

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Symptoms of Purslane Poisoning in Horses

  • In the worst-case scenario, your horse may fall into a coma will lead to its demise
  • Muscle tremors
  • Weakness eventually leading to collapse
  • Difficulty in breathing, respiratory problems  
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression 
  • Loss of body coordination 
  • Knuckling of fetlock joints 

Types  

  • A little amount of the plant should not affect your horse too much, but it is when a hungry horse is put into a field dense with this invasive plant that it will produce poisoning 
  • Purslane poisoning is just one of many toxic plants that may affect the health of your horse
  • Many other plants contain the oxalates toxin and produce similar symptoms and effects 
  • The plant is low growing and looks similar to a succulent plant

Causes of Purslane Poisoning in Horses

  • The causes of many of the symptoms comes from a severe depletion of calcium leading to soft and misshapen bones in your horse 
  • There are two types of purslane poisoning that your horse may be affected by
  • The first is known as acute oxalate poisoning which causes the kidneys to be a dark red in color 
  • Chronic oxalate poisoning causing the kidneys to be pale in colour and smaller than normal

Diagnosis of Purslane Poisoning in Horses

Diagnosis is often based on evidence based symptoms that your horse is displaying. Staying calm and remove your horse from the paddock, and if you have noticed a new plant in the field and you noticed your horse eating it, then grab a sample to show the veterinarian. Finding out what the poisoning is can be detected through clinical signs, hypocalcaemia, and the presence of oxalate crystals that may be present in your horse’s urine.

As with many types of poisoning, prevention is the best option, although with this weed it is hard to eradicate completely. Your horse’s system may become adapted to the consumption of purslane, some have adapted very well and seem to build up a tolerance to the plant. Usually in a case such as this, there has been other quality feed to offset the purslane effect and they can handle a certain amount in their diet. But to be sure, prevention if it is at all possible is by far the best way to handle this condition.

Treatment of Purslane Poisoning in Horses

Some sources suggest emptying the stomach contents may help and this is done via substantial flushing of fluids through your horse’s stomach. If this is a mild case and recent in nature, then this is worth investigating and your veterinarian will be able to help and advise you. Intensive care and IV fluids may be needed in some cases. The hardest part is accepting that it is not possible to reverse the effects of the toxin on the cellular structures. The cellular energy metabolism is more detrimental to your horse’s health than the hypocalcemia.

One theory that has been suggested is to treat acute oxalate poisoning by administering intravenous calcium gluconate, magnesium sulphate, glucose, and a balanced electrolyte solution to assist the kidneys in performing their duty. But this is mostly only theory and hard to prove from the literature available. If you suspect your horse is suffering from purslane or any poisoning, it is vital to get your equine specialist out to have a look at your horse. They can then advise the best course of action from the diagnosis.

Recovery of Purslane Poisoning in Horses

Management is the key here, it is vital to keep your horse and any other stock out of pasture that contains oxalate–containing plants such as purslane. A slow introduction to the pasture may get your horse adjusted to a little of the plant as long as the majority of the feed is high quality and nutritious. But a hungry horse let loose in a purslane riddled field will spell disaster. The plant is very invasive and can take over whole areas within the pasture. Removing your horse to the stable or another ‘clean’ field is important. If your horse is recovering from a mild dose of the poison, keeping him calm and stabled while providing plenty of rest and fluids is the key to recovery. Your veterinarian will be able to advise the best after care for your horse including any medication or supplements that may assist with healing.