View Full Version : Acorn Poisoning
18th October 2011, 12:25 AM
Will make this short as on my mobile...
Just wanted to remind people to clear fallen acorns or move their horses away from oak trees at this time of year.
Oscar & Poppy have never really taken much notice of the oak tree or fallen acorns in previous years but to be safe I shovelled up all the fallen acorns before I went away last week... Came home Sunday & just the odd stray acorn, my friend has been doing the horses all week & knew to keep on top of acorns as she helped me the day before I left.
Oscar has apparently been quiet all week & Poppy has been pycho pony, even taking a pot shot at my friends 2 year old daughter, my god daughter.. All out of character but we put it down to them missing me while I was away & Pops trying her luck with someone less experienced...
It's been playing on my mind tonight along with wondering who had been poo picking while I was away as my friend said there was less than expected one or two days.. Then it dawned on me.. I thought she'd given them too much hay as they hadn't eaten it all but even tonight there was loads left & I was the one to feed them last night & this morning :(
Just keep it in mind to check for acorns as the signs were there but due to circumstances it didnt click straight away & now I feel like the worst mum ever :(
Just been up to move them into another section of field by torch light, they both went straight to the hay & water so I'm taking that as a good sign & they are showing no signs of colic & I'll go back to check them in a few hours... Think things could have worked out so differently if I hadn't realised when I did :(
18th October 2011, 01:16 AM
Very wise to keep the dangers of acorns in mind this time of year,however are you sure both your horses have been eating them??
Have to say it's actually quite rare for horses to eat excessive amounts of acorns (and AFAIK they would need to consume a fair amount for them to be harmful to any great degree),I have heard of horses who get a taste for them,but for both of yours to develop a liking for them to that extent would be unusual.
If you know for certain they both ate large quantities then of course you need to monitor and seek advice from your vet,but if it's just something you suspect due to them being on the ground then perhaps try not to worry just yet.
18th October 2011, 09:15 AM
Thanks for your reply dun blonde, yes i am pretty sure they have been eating them in hindsight, they have been over in the ditch under the tree every time i go up (the ditch itself isn't a problem as it's dry & sloping - not something they can get stuck in & often go there for shade/shelter). I put it down to the little girl next door throwing apples over the fence there which it probably is to a certain extent but they were definitely hoovering acorns and snuffling around whilst ignoring the hay last night. Its only when i put all the facts together and googled it last night i realised. Poppy has been completely out of character and i gather that acorns contain high amounts of energy so basically she is on an energy rush, whereas Oscar i expected to be cuddly and miss me (we are very bonded) but there was something not quite right about his behaviour last night.
Keeping a close eye on them and have been told to get some milk thistle to help get rid of any toxins left in their bodies - any one used this before?
I think we have been lucky and just hope it serves as a warning to others :)
The pony i used to look after who shared my field with Oscar (before i had Poppy) had a real addiction to them every year, she would brake down fences to get to them and wasn't like it at any other time of year but agree it is unusual for both to get a taste for them.
18th October 2011, 02:30 PM
You're 100% right to be concerned about the acorns, one of my share ponies died a tragic death just two weeks ago as a result of what 'looks' like acorn poisoning. She was living out and seemed to go off of her hay the day beforehand, we didn't think anything of it but by the following afternoon she had severe colic and diorrhea in the field and had to go up to an equine hospital, where they ran tests and couldn't find what was wrong with her. They just said severe kidney damage, and to cut a long story short she suffered a heart attack after a blood transfusion and died.
My mum's old horse also died of acorn poisoning after an acorn tree fell down in her field and she stood there scoffing them for the whole day, although that's obviously a completely different scenario.
I will say that we've had terrible grass this year and that was why she ate enough acorns to cause the poisoning. As long as your horse has hay or other forage going through its system the effects of the tannin in the acorns should be lessened if you see what I mean and there shouldn't be any problems.
Acorn poisoning is very rare but it does happen and as a family we've just been very unlucky to have it happen to our horses twice now!! It's impossible to rake up all of the acorns so it's not worth worrying too much about, all I can say is be vigilant and if you notice any dramatic changes of character then bring them in off of the acorns if you can :)
My other share pony has problems with her liver and kidneys so she's on Restore by Global Herbs to give her a helping hand around this time of year, other than that there's not a lot more you can do other than feed hay, hope this helps :)
18th October 2011, 04:36 PM
Thanks Horseylover for your comments, i'm so very sorry for your loss :(
Both of mine seemed to be off their hay a bit during the week while i was away apparently, although they are eating some, just not all of it which in itself is unusual for them! They did lots less poo than expected so i assume a bit bunged up and now it's gone the other way last night with loose droppings. I moved them out of that section of field late last night as soon as i realised what might be happening, they were happy enough this morning and seemed more like their normal characters so hopefully caught it in time.
Everyone is saying its unusual for them to get addicted and actively search out acorns and its not likely to happen but as your sad story demonstrates - it can :( Like you say, the grass has been rubbish and whilst i'm feeding hay in the field they seem to have been searching out acorns instead now they have a taste for them. Pretty scary time to be honest!
18th October 2011, 08:55 PM
It's the way that she died that's the hardest part, the horrific pain she went through and the overall cause of death. We were totally helpless to do anything :( But it was just one of those things, we'll never know what exactly happened. We suspect it was an underlying kidney problem that flared up with the acorns, because she was only 11 and such a healthy pony, apparently she'd never needed the vet out in her life!
I think you're doing the right thing, you can never be too careful :) a lot of horse owners are in the dark about acorns because so many vets are in total denial over the possibilities of acorn poisoning! When the vet came out to her field we suggested acorn poisoning and despite the fact that there were acorns littered everywhere, he shrugged and said 'I doubt it'.
On a positive note, as you say acorn poisoning is so unusual and most horses can cope with the toxic tannin in the acorns, their liver just flushes it out and any damage that accumulates in the liver is so minimal that the liver repairs itself before you see any symptoms of failiure.
We'd had strong winds all day for the first time in a couple of weeks and the fields were just packed with acorns, so I think all the horses in her field just got that 'oh look, new yummy food right there on the floor' attitude. But then the rest of them (many that are much older and some with liver problems) didn't show any symptoms at all despite eating gallons of acorns, so I think it just depends on the individual horse on the day.
There's nothing more you can do other than what you're doing now really, acorn poisoning is worth worrying about but equally one of those things that we're really helpless to prevent when it comes down to it :(
The only other thing I can recommend is as you said, basic Milk Thistle or a liver tonic like Restore or I think Hilton Herbs does one too. Restore is brilliant and I go around recommending it to everyone until they're sick of me :lol: it's great anyway during changes of season or when you're worming, it gives the horses that bit of extra help and you can see the difference in literally a couple of days, gives them a lovely shiny coat and they perk right up really quickly if there's anything wrong with them. Molly's on an everyday dose to give her a permenant liver detox and she's been on it for a couple of years now with no ill effects :)
Sorry for the essay, I've become a bit of a liver-geek with Molly's liver problems! You wouldn't believe how many books and websites I've read, quite sad really :rolleyes:
18th October 2011, 09:08 PM
This is what my vet posted on facebook last night (causing me to have dreams about finding whole acorns in Saffy's poo :rolleyes:):
Acorns are a sure sign that the seasons are changing and Autumn is upon us. Oak trees and the acorns they produce are always a worry for any discerning horse owner. Acorn poisoning is rare in horses however in areas where there is poor pasture horses may be tempted to eat them.
Poisoning can occur in Spring when young oak leaves are eaten, but it mostly occurs due to ingestion of the acorns in the... Autumn. Acorns contain tannic acid which causes kidney and liver problems. The level of tannic acid is higher in green un-ripe acorns – BUT still present in brown ripe acorns.
If horses are eating acorns, the husks can often be seen in their droppings. Many horses are unaffected but clinical signs to look out for include depression, loss of appetite, mouth ulcers, abdominal pain (colic), consipation followed by diarrhoea which may contain blood, blood in the urine, weakness and incoordination.
Individual animals have different levels of tolerance. Therefore it is not possible to say how many can be eaten in a given period of time without causing symptoms, however small amounts do not usually cause problems. Acorns can become addictive, some horses will actively search for them once they have acquired the taste.
18th October 2011, 09:14 PM
That's really good advice Horseylover - thank you! I look after the YOs horse whilst they're away for 4 months of the year and she's in a small paddock with an oak tree! I've tried 'hoovering' up the acorns, fencing them off, raking them up and she still finds them! The YOs aren't concerned as she's 20 odd and has apparently been eating them for years!! She doesn't actually appear to be addicted in that she stands in that spot all day eating them, she eats a few then moves off to eat grass so in a way, self limits if you can call it that?! I do wonder if she's built an immunity over the years. I have read that 'laminitis' can be one of the symptoms (a friends horse had diagnosed acorn poisoning with lami as a symptom!) and the YO's horse is prone to lami and has had recurring bouts of it since the acorns appeared!
18th October 2011, 09:36 PM
That's really good advice Horseylover - thank you! I look after the YOs horse whilst they're away for 4 months of the year and shes is a small paddock with an oak tree! I've tried 'hoovering' up the acorns, fencing them off, raking them up and she still finds them! The YOs aren't concerned as she's 20 odd and has apparently been eating them for years!! She doesn't actually appear to be addicted in that she stands in that spot all day eating them, she eats a few then moves off to eat grass so in a way, self limits if you can call it that?! I do wonder if she's built an immunity over the years. I have read that 'laminitis' can be one of the symptoms (a friends horse had diagnosed acorn poisoning with lami as a symptom!) and the YO's horse is prone to lami and has had recurring bouts of it since the acorns appeared!
Funny you should say that, the vets at the equine hospital did suspect low-level lami when we first arrived, said that some of her symptoms were leaning towards that, but sadly she didn't live long enough for them to shed any more light on it. So I guess it's very possible that the acorns caused lami symptoms!
I also wonder whether Molly (who's 26) 'self limits' on acorns, they do say horses know what they need (Molly ate tones of Nettle with her liver problems, and that's a great plant for detoxing). This year I was worried because Molly was scoffing acorns in her field when I turned her out, which I assumed would cause her liver problems to flare up again. But it turned out that she wasn't eating them for very long, she'd eat a patch, go off and graze, drink water and so on so forth. Now the initial 'yay, acorns!' phase is over she seems totally bored of them.
So I guess that maybe older horses in particular understand their bodies better and know from experience to limit the bad stuff? Fascinating really! :)
19th October 2011, 10:11 AM
Thanks for the replies and input...
Gem - both of mine displayed several of the symptoms your vet listed - Oscar was depressed, uncoordinated a bit, he tripped over the hosepipe in his field that is always laying there and dragging his hinds a bit, both had constipation followed by the runs... Poppy went into mad pony mode, actively seeking them out & refusing to come away from the area, she was even foraging for them underneath the poo pile i had buried them in, kicking out at people and generally being a b1tch which isn't really like her (she has her moody mare moments but nothing like this) but acorns are nuts that contain high levels of energy so i am not overly surprised.
Both ponies had milk thistle tablets last night & this morning, will keep them on them for a while to help clear any toxins and help repair their kidney/liver but pleased to report both seem a lot brighter & back to their normal selves, they are still not eating as much hay as i would expect though, but they are eating some... they cant get to the acorns now but i think they can depress the appetite so hopefully that will come back in time, they were happily munching grass as i left.
19th October 2011, 11:24 AM
I too have done my research on acorns this year and have been worrying myself silly over it!
Although I have been around and owned horses for years I didnt know they were poisonous! It wasnt until I saw Star eating some and one of the girls who's horses are in the same field said about it. I was getting really worried as Star seemed to love them so did some research to try to get some more knowledge on the subject.
Unfortunately on the yard I am on, every field has acorn trees all around the edges so we cant stop them getting to them unless we want to spend all day every day removing each acorn that falls or keep the horses in their stables 24/7. But luckily for us we have VERY good grazing!
Star changed in temperament a lot, getting moody and aggressive! I couldn't decide whether this was due to her wanting to come in for the winter (she doesnt do staying out at night in the cold, she feels the cold a lot) or due to acorns after reading they can cause them to become depressed. I thought that bringing her in would be a good start and would help in which ever was the problem so she is now in at night. I saw a change on the first morning, much, much happier and since then she runs to the gate when I get to the yard as she knows she is coming in and she is a pleasure once again to handle and look after.
I see her eat the odd one each day as our gateway to the field is covered in acorns due to a tree being right above the gate way but once in the field she just grazes and doesnt seem to be interested in them! :)
19th October 2011, 11:32 AM
By bringing your mare in you are taking away a good chunk of her grazing time to get addicted to the acorns (if she was going to get addicted), so whether it be because she is glad to come in or just having a break from the acorns - well either is good. Poppy was agressive, to the point i couldnt get near her - not fun. Mine will be in at night soon, possibly tonight as it's meant to freeze or get close to it, saying that a good frost will soon help break up the acorns and destroy the toxins a bit anyway.
19th October 2011, 01:43 PM
I am glad I have bought in! Knowing my mare this is what she needed either way, as you say!
Star got like that, would try and bite constantly and would not come to call (something she has always done since owning her!!) even putting a rug on or grooming her became difficult :frown:
Atleast your horses are away fromt he acorns now, Unfortunately I dont have this choice so coming in is my only option and in the day I just have to hope she stays away from them!
19th October 2011, 01:59 PM
0310star, yes i am lucky i could move them away, i just split my field up with eleccy fencing, i do it anyway to rest/rotate and save some for spring without it getting too churned up.. the only reason they were in that section is that it offers the biggest bit of grazing whilst i was away, was well rested & ready to be eaten down and of course had good shelter under the trees which are oak trees gggrr. Oh well, think they can come in now or very soon so wont feel so bad leaving them without much shelter in the day.
I am sure your mare will be ok now, if she is getting plenty of hay at night in the stable she will hopefully just be happy to graze during the day, i think the problem with mine occured where they were on it 24/7 and maybe they got hungry one night once their hay was all gone in the field :( Just keep a close eye on her xx
19th October 2011, 03:14 PM
I found that Star was eating the acorns when she was out 24/7, she is fine now and completely back to her old self now shes in at night :)
Hopefully it wont be long until they have all broken up and disappeared with the cold weather!
I have read a few articles this year which have said that the weird, up and down weather has contirbuted to there being so many acorns and also contributed to all these horses going down with acorn poisoning! :(
19th October 2011, 03:25 PM
Thanks for the heads up - a reminder to us all.
We had problems last year with acorns in the big gelding field, we spent ages between us shovelling them up daily as the horses were shuffling round in them eating them up. We arnt in theat field this year though, so not a worry for us. x
24th October 2011, 04:33 PM
0310 Star - i am wondering if i can get away with doing that with my two now.. the best grass is in the largest section which, you guessed it, is where the oak tree is. Im going to scrape up everything i can see and give it a day or two and see how many more fall..if the worst is over they can hopefully go back out in that section if i get them in at night but i dont want to do it if there is any risk to them eating loads again :(
amandaxx1 - sounds like a lot of people have had a problem this year - mine were literally standing waiting for them to drop off the tree!
On a positive note, both mine seem to be back to normal now, eating every scrap of hay & drinking normal amounts :D
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