We often see cases of acorn poisoning and Milbourn Equine Vets would like to ensure that all our clients are aware of the toxic effects of consuming acorns and the best way to protect your horse from this horrible condition.
Acorns and also other parts of the oak tree including leaves, stems and oak blossoms are toxic to horses when consumed in significant quantities. Most horses will not choose to eat acorns if they have adequate forage, but occasionally they develop a taste for them and will seek them out.
The reason oak products are toxic is due to a product called tannins which cause result in kidney failure, colic, bloody diarrhoea and occasionally death.
Symptoms of this condition are colic, diarrhoea or constipation, blood in the urine or faeces and depression/going off food in horses that have been exposed to acorns. You will often see pieces of acorn kernel in the horse’s faeces.
Treatment is limited to supportive care, as there is no specific antidote available. This involves intravenous fluids and laxative treatment until the acorns have passed through. The prognosis is guarded, if the kidneys have been affected or the gut damage is severe then it is not always possible to save these horses.
The most important thing is to prevent exposure to acorns in the first place. It is almost impossible to clear the acorns as they fall so we would suggest fencing off any oak trees or moving horses to another field for the autumn period. If they have been known to consume acorns please monitor them closely for any of the above signs, if you are concerned please call us immediately.