Certain soil imbalances can lead to pasture grasses with too much of one mineral, which can be toxic to livestock.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/JOE GOUGH
If your livestock or pets are acting sick or strange, they may have been poisoned by a common toxin. This chart details the most common sources and symptoms of animal poisoning.
1. Water Contamination
- Occurs when dense bloom of blue-green algae produces potent neurotoxin.
- Causes convulsions and sudden death in livestock, wildlife and birds.
- Algae sampling and testing required to confirm poisoning.
- Occurs when animal ingests high concentrations of salt or is deprived of water, especially in hot weather or in cold weather when water freezes.
- Poultry, feeder pigs and ruminants are susceptible.
- Blindness, deafness or paralysis may result.
2. Soil Imbalances
- Occurs when livestock consume high selenium content in forage on alkali soil found on Great Plains of U.S., western Canada and Mexico.
- In its most severe form, causes blindness and staggering. Can also cause cracked hooves and lameness.
- Soil testing recommended for diagnosis.
- Caused by imbalance in copper/molybdenum ratios in soil, most common in western U.S.
- Ruminants, especially young cattle, are most susceptible.
- Causes severe scours and emaciation.
3. Feed Contamination
- Excess pigment found in cottonseed products causes cumulative toxicity.
- Immature ruminants and pigs are most susceptible.
- Prolonged exposure causes weight loss, weakness and loss of appetite.
- Caused by abrupt addition of feed-grade urea or ammonium salts to the ruminant diet.
- Mature ruminants are most susceptible, as they convert nonprotein nitrogen to ammonia, which is toxic.
- Causes muscle tremors, weakness, difficulty breathing and death.
- Worldwide problem caused by ingestion of moldy feed, corn, or certain varieties of mold-infected pasture grass and forage (e.g., fescue grass, rye, sweet clover).
- All species of livestock, horses and poultry are susceptible.
- Wide variety of signs are possible, including lameness, paralysis, listlessness, jaundice and internal bleeding.
- Feed analysis required to confirm toxicosis.
- Found in feed-grade phosphates, well water with high levels of fluorine or airborne factory waste.
- Usually requires long-term exposure and results in abnormalities of the skeleton and teeth.
- Signs may include mottling and staining of the teeth or softening of bones.
- Usually the result of improperly formulated mineral mixes or certain plants causing mineral imbalances.
- Primarily affects sheep.
- Signs are related to liver damage and include diarrhea, pain, dehydration, jaundice and blood in the urine.
- Caused by blister beetles, primarily in the southwestern U.S.
- Beetles swarm in alfalfa hay during harvesting and are ingested by horses, sheep or cattle.
- Signs include salivation due to oral ulcers, abdominal pain, shock and blood in the urine.
4. Farm Supplies
- Very common culprit in farm animal poisonings.
- Found in paint, batteries, grease and used motor oil.
- Most common in cattle and dogs, but all animals may be affected.
- Symptoms include dullness, lack of coordination, blindness or convulsions.
- Found in tar paper, creosote-treated wood, clay pigeons and tarbased flooring.
- Pigs often affected after chewing treated wooden farrowing crates; cats are very sensitive as well.
- Neurological signs, weakness, collapse and sudden death are often seen.
- May also cause decreased growth rate in young pigs.
5. Household Poisons
- The obromin in unsweetened baker's chocolate can cause severe illness; cases usually involve dogs.
- Five ounces of baker's chocolate can be fatal to a 20-pound canine.
- Typical signs are nervousness, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and occasionally coma.
- Most often involves holiday poisonings of kittens and puppies chewing on poinsettias, Easter lilies, mistletoe, philodendrons, spider plants and others.
- Signs vary widely, but often include vomiting and neurological symptoms
- Toxicity varies greatly among individual plants.
Cleaning Supplies and Medications
- Bored, young or inquisitive dogs may chew through plastic bottles and pill containers.
- Most household cleaners will cause severe vomiting and diarrhea.
- Tylenol, Advil, Aleve and other over-the-counter medications may be toxic and potentially fatal to cats and dogs.