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What is Seaside Daisy Poisoning ?

This wildflower, also referred to as seaside fleabane or beach aster, is native to the pacific coastal areas of the United States where it prefers the sandy soils of dunes, beaches, and coastal prairies. Seaside daisy is a perennial that can grow up to 3 feet tall with branching stems that can be with or without hair. Each stem is topped with a flower head consisting of daisy-like flowers of yellow centers ringed with purple, blue or white petals that bloom from April to August. Leaves are pale green to blue green, and seeds are within a fruit topped with fine bristles.

Seaside daisy, or Erigeron glaucus, hails from the Asteraceae family, and can cause skin irritation, such as rashes, scabs, and hives if it comes into contact with your horse. Ingestion of seaside daisy can also disrupt the digestive system, resulting in diarrhea that can become life-threatening if not treated.

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Symptoms of Seaside Daisy Poisoning in Horses

Symptoms of a seaside daisy poisoning will vary, and depend on what type of poisoning has occurred. An internal ingestion may show signs of a mild to severe gastroenteritis, while contact with your horse’s skin can induce various types of dermatitis. Signs include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody feces
  • Lethargy 
  • Dehydration
  • Low blood pressure
  • Skin inflammation
  • Red and flaky skin
  • Skin rashes
  • Thickening of skin
  • Skin sores
  • Hives 
  • Chewing or biting at inflamed skin areas
  • Hair loss
  • Scabs and crusts

Types

There are two types of seaside daisy poisoning seen in horses.

  • Contact dermatitis occurs when your horse’s skin comes into contact with seaside daisy, and can cause mild to severe skin irritation
  • Ingestion poisoning occurs when your horse has ingested seaside daisy; this type of poisoning causes damage to the digestive system, resulting in symptoms involving elimination

Causes of Seaside Daisy Poisoning in Horses

The cause of a seaside daisy poisoning in your horse is either from consumption of this plant, or from contact with your horse’s skin. The toxic components of seaside daisy have not yet been identified.

While your horse may normally stay away from seaside daisy, there are conditions in which your horse may eat this toxic plant. They can include:

  • Overgrazed pastures and fields
  • Lack of better quality green forage
  • Lack of quality feed or hay
  • Accidental hay contamination

Diagnosis of Seaside Daisy Poisoning in Horses

Diagnosis of a poisoning of seaside daisy in your horse can be quick if you have seen your horse come into direct contact with this toxic plant, or have evidence that your horse has consumed it. In these cases, be sure to bring a sample of the plant to your veterinarian to make a positive identification. Diagnosis is then based on this identification and the symptoms present.

If you have no evidence your horse has had contact or eaten seaside daisy, your veterinarian may need to run various tests to narrow down the cause for the skin dermatitis or the gastrointestinal distress. These may include skin biopsies and avoidance therapy for a skin rash or irritation, or blood and serum tests, a urinalysis, or a fecal float to look for any pathogens, parasites or fungus that may be causing your horse digestive issues. These can often reveal the presence of toxic alkaloids, which may be able to lead to a plant poisoning.

Treatment of Seaside Daisy Poisoning in Horses

The first method of treatment is to remove seaside daisy from your horse’s reach. If your horse has had a contact poisoning, treatment begins by washing the affected areas. Emollient shampoos, and various solutions and sprays can be prescribed to help alleviate the itching and inflammation. Cold water therapy and ice packs can also be used. Other therapies involving the applications of witch hazel or sulphur may be beneficial. Antihistamines or steroids may also be prescribed to reduce both inflammation and itchiness.

For an ingestion of seaside daisy, treatment can include fluid and electrolyte therapy, administering supplementary protein, and therapies to restore intestinal flora. If a very large amount of the plant was ingested at once, activated charcoal may be administered to reduce the absorption of toxins.

Recovery of Seaside Daisy Poisoning in Horses

Recovery of a seaside daisy poisoning in your horse can be good if treatment is timely. Skin irritations, rashes, and hives should subside with treatment, which may include applying sprays and solutions, using emollient rich shampoos, and administering medications. For severe diarrhea that goes untreated for too long, life threatening conditions can occur. In these cases, your veterinarian will discuss your horse’s recovery based on his particular case.

Watch for signs of seaside daisy in areas your horse frequents to prevent him from coming into contact with this irritating plant. Monitor your horse’s hay for any toxic plants, including seaside daisy.