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What is Sacred Datura Poisoning?

The reason for the toxicity of the sacred datura is because the plant has up to 64 alkaloids, dominated mostly by atropine and scopolamine. All parts of the plant contain the toxins, and they can produce hallucinogenic and other effects from the toxic alkaloids in the seeds. Although the plant is not attractive to your horse due to the strong odor and unpleasant taste, sometimes the seeds can be mixed in with the other forage and can be eaten accidentally.

This is a very pretty but potent and very toxic plant for your horse, with poisoning occurring within 30 – 60 minutes after eating.

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Symptoms of Sacred Datura Poisoning in Horses

  • Confusion and agitation
  • Muscular tremors
  • Severe seizures 
  • Temperature fluctuations can vary going from hot and cold constantly
  • Colic and gastrointestinal pain
  • Bloating of the abdomen
  • Muscle twitches and spasms 
  • Dry mouth and excessive thirst
  • Sensitivity to the light 
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Impaired vision 

Types 

There is only one type of poisoning caused by this plant but it is fast acting, and can be deadly.

  • The sacred datura plant is a member of the deadly nightshade family of plants which are called deadly for a reason, they can harm your horse  
  • The plant is a native from India 
  • Sacred datura is also known as jimson weed, most varieties of this plant have a strong odor which usually makes it unattractive to your horse

Causes of Sacred Datura Poisoning in Horses

  • Usually your horse will ignore this unpleasant smelling plant but if he is very hungry he just may experiment and try it out
  • Poisoning can occur when seeds from the plant are mixed with grain in livestock feed and especially if it is mixed in the hay
  • Check your source of hay as to what toxic plants are most prolific in the area where it was made
  • The toxicity is caused by tropane alkaloids

Diagnosis of Sacred Datura Poisoning in Horses

The moment you notice anything out of the ordinary in your horse’s behavior, alert your veterinarian. It may be that your equine has inadvertently eaten some datura plant or seeds. Removing your horse and housing him in the stable is best where you and your veterinarian can have easy access to him. Because the toxin is fast acting, the specialist is your first port of call. They will be able to diagnose what is wrong and provide supportive care for your pet. Make sure you show the specialist where your horse was grazing, especially if you are not familiar with the toxic plants. Knowing what the plant is will assist with the treatment and recovery options. 

Your veterinarian is your best contact and rather than wait and see how your horse is affected. The veterinarian will take note of the clinical signs, such as ocular changes, gastrointestinal pain and muscle spasms.  He may take blood and urine samples but will make the decision based on your horse’s present condition and the timeliness of the need for treatment.

Treatment of Sacred Datura Poisoning in Horses

The first thing to do is to prevent any further contact with the plant for your horse. Remove any plant material in the mouth and flush the mouth with copious amounts of water. If necessary, your horse will be transported to a large animal hospital. Your veterinarian may suggest gastric lavage, or activated charcoal which may help decrease the absorption of the toxin into the system. Your horse may need oxygen if he is having respiratory problems. It is important that the atropine toxin which accumulates in the kidneys is eliminated, so catheterization may be necessary if your horse is not urinating. 

In most cases, with prompt treatment the prognosis is good. Your horse should return to his normal happy self within 36 hours. Needless to say, your next priority is clearing this noxious weed out of the pasture. Try to ensure the seeds are not split open to remain in the paddock as they are very potent and may be eaten inadvertently by your horse. If the seeds are mixed into hay, they remain a potent source of poison for your horse.

Recovery of Sacred Datura Poisoning in Horses

With speedy treatment and plenty of care, the prognosis for your horse making a full recovery is very good. It may take several days before your horse returns to normal but with plenty of rest and good solid feed, he will soon be out and moving about again. A horse owner learns the visual clues from their horse if they are observant and get to know the little quirks in your horse’s personality. The quicker you spot anything wrong the better, as time can be an important ally in the recovery process. 

Pasture management against toxic plants getting a foothold is vital, as prevention is a lot less stressful and more economical than experiencing a poisoning event. Pasture management is essential, as is knowing what the poisonous plants are in your area and the symptoms that go with them. An awareness and knowledge of potentially noxious trees and plants are the two best tools to ensure your horse leads a long healthy life.