Ragwort Poisoning

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Photographer: Christian Fischer

Ragwort contains alkaloids which cause irreversible liver damage and it is a common sight on horse sick pastures. Horses usually avoid it when it is growing as it has a very bitter taste, however when it is cut and dried it becomes more palatable, therefore it is at its most dangerous when it is baled with hay.


Symptoms of Ragwort Poisoning are not usually evident until a few weeks after the horse has been eating Ragwort. Symptoms include:

1. Abdominal pain

2. Weight Loss

3. Jaundice

4. Incoordination

5. Diarrhoea or constipation

6. Head pressing against fixed objects

7. Depression

8. Aimless walking and circling

9. Collection of fluid under the skin of the belly.

The horse may go into a coma and die quietly or suffer convulsions in the end stages.


There is no specific treatment for Ragwort Poisoning. Using supportive therapy in the hope that the liver will regenerate itself is all that can be done. Supportive treatment includes:

1. Rest

2. Antibiotics

3. A high energy, low protein diet

4. B vitamins

5. Oral or intravenously administered glucose

6. Regular blood tests to monitor progress.


Check the pasture regularly for Ragwort and pull up and remove any plants from the field.

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