Sources and Symptoms of Animal Poisoning

From algae and salt to lead and household products, learn what can lead to animal poisoning and how your pets or livestock may react if poisoned.

| August/September 1999

  • Cow
    Certain soil imbalances can lead to pasture grasses with too much of one mineral, which can be toxic to livestock.

  • Cow

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


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