Pyrrolizidine alkaloid-induced liver disease in horses: an early diagnosis.

V. E. Mendel, M. R. Witt, B. S. Gitchell, D. N. Gribble, Quinton Rogers, H. J. Segall, H. D. Knight

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43 Scopus citations


Nine adult horses were fed alfalfa hay cubes containing approximately 10% Senecio vulgaris until all horses had consumed approximately the same amount of toxic components of S vulgaris, pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA). The amount of PA consumed was determined by the amount that induced clinical signs of PA toxicosis in 3 horses. The 6 other horses were given similar amounts per kilogram of body weight. An initial decrease of feed intake was observed when horses' diets were changed from alfalfa cubes to alfalfa/Senecio cubes, and feed intake was decreased further over 89 to 98 days. From 50 to 159 days, body weight decreased in all horses. Liver disease was induced in all 9 horses after they ate an average of 233 +/- 9.2 mg of PA/kg of body weight. Eight horses died or were euthanatized. Treatment with branched chain amino acids had no effect on mortality, but appeared to reduce neurologic problems. Clinical signs of PA-induced liver disease included ataxia, head pressing, and decreased feed intake. Other clinical signs of toxicosis were observed individual horses, but did not develop in most horses. Megalocytic hepatopathy developed. Liver abnormalities proceeded as PA was consumed and were severe in 8 of 9 horses before clinical signs of toxicosis appeared. Sulfobromophthalein sodium clearance did not decrease until PA-induced liver disease was advanced. Bile acid (BA) concentrations increased to greater than or equal to 50 mumol/L, in the 8 horses that died. One horse had hepatopathy and increased BA concentration, but survived. In this horse, BA concentration peaked at 33 mumol/L and then decreased.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)572-578
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Veterinary Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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