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There has been a great deal of publicity about ragwort in recent years so all horse owners should already be aware of the danger that this plant poses to their animals. Common ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids. These toxic compounds principally cause damage to the liver that often leads to death. Horses are particularly susceptible to the effects of ragwort but other grazing animals are also at risk and humans should take precautions (e.g. gloves) when handling the plant.
What is Strangles?
Clinical signs include fever, nasal discharge, cough, depression, anorexia and enlarged glands on the head and neck, which can become abscesses. The swollen glands can restrict the airway and make breathing laboured, hence the name strangles. Infection is usually restricted to the head and neck, however in up to 10% of cases it can develop in other body organs and cause abscesses. This is usually fatal and is known as ‘bastard’ strangles. Another complication is purpura haemorraghica (damage to the blood vessels of the limbs, eye lids and gums), which can be so extreme that it can cause circulatory failure and death.
What is Laminitis?
Laminitis is one of the most serious, crippling diseases of horses, ponies and donkeys. Severe and recurring cases of laminitis can reduce a horse's usefulness or result in the horse being destroyed to prevent further suffering. Treatment can require a lot of time and money (whether successful or not) and requires a good deal of energy from the carer for an extended period of time.
What is Colic?
The term "colic" means only "pain in the abdomen" or "pain in the belly". There are many causes for such pain, ranging from the mild and inconsequential to the life-threatening or fatal. One of the problems with equine colic is that it can be very difficult in the early stages to distinguish the mild from the potentially fatal. This is why all cases of abdominal pain should be taken seriously right from the onset.