Poisoning in equines
Think your horse has been poisoned?
- Stay calm.
Remove your horse(s) from the source of poison.
- Contact your vet immediately; inform them when, where and how the poisoning occurred.
If appropriate, carefully retain the packaging, plant or substance to show to the vet. Be careful not to expose yourself to any harm.
- Follow your vet’s advice.
If you are advised to take your horse(s) to the vet, do so quickly and calmly.
Never attempt to treat or medicate your horse(s) yourself. Some medicines for humans and other animals may be poisonous to your horse.
If the skin or fur is contaminated, wash thoroughly with mild shampoo and water, rinse well and dry.
Keep your horse(s) away from any other animals to avoid cross contamination.
Never ‘watch and wait’. If you suspect your horse has been poisoned, act fast and contact a vet immediately.
Signs of poisoning
Symptoms of poisoning in horses may include: abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, straining, rectal prolapse, weight loss, restlessness, unsteadiness, blindness, breathing difficulties, head pressing, problems swallowing, lethargy, tremors, twitching and fitting, collapse, loss of appetite, colic, depression, high temperature and laminitis (inflammation of the laminated tissue that attaches the hoof to the foot of a horse).
Symptoms may not appear immediately, or may develop rapidly. Some horses go on to develop kidney or liver damage, and sudden deaths can occur.
Preventing poisoning in horses
- Ensure all areas are free from, and not overhung by, poisonous plants.
- Ensure water cannot become contaminated, and change it regularly.
- When using pesticides such as rodenticides in or around housing and exercise areas be sure to restrict your horse’s/horses’ access to these areas.
- Ensure adequate and appropriate food/forage is available to reduce the likelihood for eating other vegetation. Some feeds intended for other animals may not be appropriate for horses.
- Ensure riders, carers and visitors are informed about potential poisonous hazards to your horse(s). Don't allow them to feed inappropriate food items.
Read more about some of the most common horse poisons.
Acknowledgement for this information is made to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS).