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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ASTRAGALUS AND OXYTROPIS POISONING IN LIVESTOCK Title: The comparative pathology of locoweed poisoning in horses and other livestock

Authors
item Stegelmeier, Bryan
item Davis, Thomas
item Welch, Kevin
item Green, Benedict
item Gardner, Dale
item Lee, Stephen
item Ralphs, Michael
item Pfister, James
item Cook, Daniel
item Panter, Kip

Submitted to: Poisoning by Plants, Mycotoxins, and Related Toxins
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: January 10, 2010
Publication Date: May 1, 2011
Citation: Stegelmeier, B.L., Davis, T.Z., Welch, K.D., Green, B.T., Gardner, D.R., Lee, S.T., Ralphs, M.H., Pfister, J.A., Cook, D., Panter, K.E. 2011. The comparative pathology of locoweed poisoning in horses and other livestock. In: Riet-Correa, F., Pfister, J., Schild, A.L., Wierenga, T., editors. Poisoning by Plants, Mycotoxins, and Related Toxins. Cambridge, MA. CAB International. 48:309-10.

Interpretive Summary: Some species are more susceptible to locoweed poisoning. Horses appear to be even uniquely sensitive. The purpose of this study is to determine toxic locoweed doses and describe the progression of locoweed poisoning in horses. Sixteen mares were fed a mixed locoweed ration to obtain swainsonine doses of 0.0, 0.2, 0.6, and 1.8 mg swainsonine/kg body weight/day. After 90 days two mares from each group were euthanized and tissues were collected for chemical, histology and ultrastructural studies. The remaining 2 animals were allowed to recover for 45 days after which they were euthanized. After 10 days of treatment the mares from the 0.6 and 1.8 mg groups were depressed, anorexic, hesitant to move and they had subtle intention tremors when moving. These signs became more severe and after 45 days, the 5/6 mares had cystic ovaries with abnormal estrus cycles. With 60 days of treatment the 0.2 mg/kg groups also became depressed and started to lose weight. At necropsy the treated animals were thin with lack of visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue. Histologically the 0.6 and 1.8 mg swainsonine groups all had severe vacuolation of nearly all neuronal and visceral tissues. The 0.2 mg swainsonine group had mild vacuolation of the Purkinje cells and renal tubular cells. The mares that were allowed to recover began to have normal estrus cycles and near the end of the recovery period began to eat better and gain weight. Histologically these animals had some neuronal vacuolation with loss of neurons and axonal dystrophy (spheroids). These results indicate horses are much more sensitive to locoweed poisoning than other livestock species. They develop severe clinical signs quicker and they are slower to recover than other livestock species. Though previously poisoned mares recover reproductive function, they have permanent neurologic damage and are a risk if they are ridden or worked.

Technical Abstract: Some species are more likely to develop both clinical and histologic locoism. Mice and deer are relatively resistant where sheep and cattle are more susceptible. Horses appear to be even more sensitive. The purpose of this study is to determine toxic locoweed doses and describe the progression of locoweed poisoning in horses. Sixteen mares were fed a mixed locoweed ration to obtain swainsonine doses of 0.0, 0.2, 0.6, and 1.8 mg swainsonine/kg body weight/day. After 90 days two mares from each group were necropsied and tissues were collected for chemical, histology and ultrastructural studies. The remaining 2 animals were allowed to recover for 45 days after which they were euthanized and necropsied. After 10 days of treatment the mares from the 0.6 and 1.8 mg groups were depressed, anorexic, hesitant to move and they had subtle intention tremors when moving. These signs became more severe and after 45 days, the 5/6 mares had cystic ovaries with abnormal estrus cycles. With 60 days of treatment the 0.2 mg/kg groups also became depressed and started to lose weight. At necropsy the treated animals were thin with lack of visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue. Histologically the 0.6 and 1.8 mg swainsonine groups all had severe vacuolation of nearly all neuronal and visceral tissues. The 0.2 mg swainsonine group had mild vacuolation of the Purkinje cells and renal tubular cells. The mares that were allowed to recover began to have normal estrus cycles and near the end of the recovery period began to eat better and gain weight. Histologically these animals had some neuronal vacuolation with loss of neurons and axonal dystrophy (spheroids). These results indicate horses are much more sensitive to locoweed poisoning than other livestock species. They develop severe clinical signs quicker and they are slower to recover than other livestock species. Though previously poisoned mares recover reproductive function, they have permanent neurologic damage and are a risk if they are ridden or worked.

Last Modified: 11/26/2014
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