Tuesday 11 July 2017

Is your dieting horse at greater risk from Ragwort poisoning?

Ragwort that is actively growing in pasture is not particularly palatable to horses due to the bitter taste, however horses and ponies that are on restricted bare grazing are more likely to investigate weeds as a possible food source. In addition to this many horses that are on low sugar diets to prevent laminitis will receive soaked hay for much of the year, please be aware that Ragwort that has been dried and baled into hay is more readily consumed and poses an increased risk for ingestion. Pulling apart hay sections can help identify material that should not be present, especially if you have recently changed your hay supply. 

Top facts about Ragwort poisoning.

Ragwort is a plant that we are all familiar with and spend a lot of time removing from our pastures, but why is this aspect of pasture management so important?

*Ragwort can be just as toxic to the liver when ingested in small quantities over a number of years, as it can be when large quantities are ingested.
*Dried ragwort that has been accidentally baled into hay is more palatable than growing plants and presents a hidden danger to horses.
*Effective removal and dilligent prevention of spread into agricultural land is important. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/prevent-the-spread-of-harmful-invasive-and-non-native-plants
*The symptoms of Ragwort poisoning will not become apparent until a large number of liver cells have been damaged.
*The first signs to look for in your horse will be depression, loss of body condition, poor coat, poor appetite, diarrhoea, photosensitivity - sun burn on areas of pink skin, often the muzzle and lower limbs. You may notice a yellow colour to the gums or eyes.
*The later stages of liver failure will cause behaviour changes such as aggression, circling, aimless wandering, poor coordination, head pressing against walls, noisy breathing, collapse and can prove fatal.
*Diagnosis of liver damage in horses can be performed with blood testing and biopsy of the liver under ultrasound guidance.
*The earlier the diagnosis is made the better the prognosis for survival.
*Prevention is better than cure, as well as removal of the weed from pasture please do monitor your hay content.

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