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Friday, 4 August 2017

Acorn Poisoning - How to Treat your poisoned Horse

As acorn poisoning is on the rise, it is important to be aware of the dangers of oak leaves and acorns in horse pastures.  There are not enough horse owners who are aware of the risks and do not know what to look for.  The symptoms can be very subtle at the beginning but the poisoning moves quickly and will be more severe and harder to treat if it is not caught early.  If left untreated, acorn poisoning can be very severe or fatal.   

What Causes Acorn Poisoning?

There has been a big rise in the amount of horses to die from acorn poisoning in the last few years.  Some horse owners are not aware of the risk and don't catch the signs quickly enough.   
Acorn poisoning occurs when a horse ingests a large amount of acorns or oak leaves and branches.  A horse can naturally consume a small amount of acorns or oak leaves from normal day to day forage such as grass and hay but some horses may actually purposely try to find and eat acorns to the point of illness.  Acorns contain tannic and gallic acids which can severely damage the kidneys and the gastrointestinal system.   
The chances of a horse getting acorn poisoning are a lot higher after a storm when oak leaves are blown into the field and the horse naturally eats it.   

What are the symptoms of acorn poisoning? 

Horses will acorn poisoning with be fine after ingestion or will be a little quiet.  The poisoning will then move very quickly and by 24 hours if left untreated can be fatal.  It is important to phone the vet as soon as your horse starts to show any of the signs below in case they have been poisoned.   

  • Edema (Fluid build up on the legs) 
  • Dehydration  
  • Blood in urine  
  • Colic  
  • Constipation  
  • Weight loss 
  • Kidney Damage 
  • Loss in Appetite 
  • Depression  
  • Gastroenteritis  
  • Bleeding in the gut 

How is Acorn Poisoning treated? 

It is difficult to diagnose acorn poisoning in horses and there is no medicine made for acorn poisoning which makes things a lot harder. 
Activate charcoal is used to treat a poisoned horse because if it is given closely after the horse has ingested acorns, it will soak up toxins in the gut.  The horse should also have IV fluid therapy to help with dehydration, Epsom salts and liquid paraffin to help the poison to move through the gut. 
They may also get pain killers and drugs to control diarrhoea.     
The best way is to prevent it!  This is important when fields are close to oak trees or if you notice your horse has taken a liking to oaks leaves.  You should either sweep them up daily (especially after a storm), fence off parts with accessible oaks trees, use a roller to push them into the ground (not overly recommended) or put pigs into the area as they do not get poisoned by acorns.   



  1. Thank you.....I did not know that acorns are poison to horses.....I fed a couple of handfuls to my gelding a couple years ago....thank goodness it did not make him sick!

  2. I don't think many people do know about it! And don't worry, its usually only when they eat lots and lots!