Summer pheasant's eye (Adonis aestivalis) poisoning in three horses

Leslie Woods, M. S. Filigenzi, M. C. Booth, L. D. Rodger, J. S. Arnold, Birgit Puschner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Three horses died as a result of eating grass hay containing summer pheasant's eye (Adonis aestivalis L.), a plant containing cardenolides similar to oleander and foxglove. A 9-year-old thoroughbred gelding, a 20-year-old appaloosa gelding, and a 5-year-old quarter horse gelding initially presented with signs of colic 24-48 hours after first exposure to the hay. Gastrointestinal gaseous distension was the primary finding on clinical examination of all three horses. Two horses became moribund and were euthanatized 1 day after first showing clinical signs, and the third horse was euthanatized after 4 days of medical therapy. Endocardial hemorrhage and gaseous distension of the gastrointestinal tract were the only necropsy findings in the first two horses. On microscopic examination, both horses had scattered foci of mild, acute myocardial necrosis and neutrophilic inflammation associated with endocardial and epicardial hemorrhage. The third horse that survived for 4 days had multifocal to coalescing, irregular foci of acute, subacute, and chronic myocardial degeneration and necrosis. A. aestivalis (pheasant's eye, summer adonis) was identified in the hay. Strophanthidin, the aglycone of several cardenolides present in Adonis spp., was detected by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry-mass spectrometry in gastrointestinal contents from all three horses. Although Adonis spp. contain cardiac glycosides, cardiac lesions have not previously been described in livestock associated with consumption of adonis, and this is the first report of adonis toxicosis in North America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-220
Number of pages6
JournalVeterinary Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2004


  • Adonis aestivalis
  • Adonis toxicosis
  • Colic
  • Equine
  • Myocardial degeneration
  • Myocarditis
  • Pheasant's eye
  • Strophanthin
  • Summer adonis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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