Whether you have plans to plant shrubs along your pasture fence or are thinking of placing your horse in a new pasture, it is important for the health of your horse to know what plants and shrubs may be harmful to equines. Many commonly grown plants and shrubs are poisonous to horses if digested.
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Bracken ferns may look lovely in a woodland and natural setting, but they are poisonous to livestock and horses. Growing throughout the United States and Europe, bracken ferns deplete the vitamin B in an animal, leading to weight loss, weakness, muscle tremors, slow heart rate and eventual death. It may take several weeks or months of ingesting bracken fern for your horse to show signs of poisoning. The roots, or rhizomes, of the bracken fern are much more potent than the fronds, and care should be taken when ploughing a pasture containing bracken ferns and when removing single plants by digging.
A perennial ornamental landscape shrub, the oleander is highly toxic to all living creatures, including humans and horses. All parts of an oleander are poisonous, including its leaves, blossoms, branches and roots, and even smoke from burning it. Though a horse normally will avoid eating this plant, it can accidentally be ingested when the leaves have been inadvertently mixed with grass clippings or feed. Signs your horse may have ingested oleander are diarrhoea, colic, rapid or irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing and tremors. Death from heart failure may result.
Fresh or dried, all parts of the attractive ornamental yew bush are extremely poisonous to horses, cattle and sheep. Often found as a landscape bush around houses and barns, as little as a half a pound of ingested yew can rapidly kill a horse. Symptoms include decreased heart rate, trembling, difficulty breathing, lack of coordination and convulsions. There is no known treatment for yew poisoning, and death can happen within 2 to 3 hours of ingesting the plant.
In the spring, many pastures are filled with the tiny yellow flowers of wild buttercup plants, but the plant is toxic to grazing animals. The plant, if eaten, causes mouth blisters that result in loss of appetite and drooling, a weak heartbeat, colic, diarrhoea, bloody urine, twitching eyelids and loud breathing. Though buttercup is seldom fatal, because your horse will cease consuming it, your veterinarian should be consulted. Buttercup plants lose the toxicity when dried, and will not affect your horses if included in hay.
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