Many animals in the wild depend on acorns in the fall and winter, but the nut poses a toxicity risk to horses, cattle, goats and sheep.
Poisoning can occur after ingesting large amounts of acorns, oak leaves or branches. Oak products are toxic due to tannins that can result in kidney failure, colic, founder and occasionally death. There is anecdotal evidence that some horses develop an addiction to acorns and will actually seek them out, eating to the point of illness.
What are the symptoms?
- Loss of appetite
- Blood in the urine
- Edema in the lower legs
How is acorn poisoning diagnosed?
- Testing manure for acorn remnants
How is it treated?
Administration of paraffin, mineral oil, calcium hydroxide or activated charcoal by stomach tube has been recommended to stop further damage from occurring in the intestinal tract and to bind the toxins.
Next is IV fluid therapy. This will help combat fluid loss from diarrhea and help ward off impending renal failure. IV fluid therapy can also help support the horse’s circulatory system and assist in the prevention of shock.
Encouraging the horse to eat hay and drink water will also dilute the toxins in the digestive tract.
How do I prevent acorn poisoning?
The only way to protect your horse from acorn poisoning is by fencing off oak trees and keeping your horse out of the wind-path of falling acorns and leaves. If there are oak trees near the fence line of your horse’s pasture, clear fallen branches immediately after a storm.