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Paterson’s Curse, also known as Salvation Jane, is a plant that is highly toxic to horses. It contains compounds known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids, the metabolites of which cause cell death in organs throughout the body, most commonly the liver. Effects on the liver of repeated low intake of toxic plants are cumulative and progressive. Clinical signs may not be seen for many weeks or months. Under normal conditions the plant is usually avoided by horses but can be a problem following drought conditions or a fire.

Acute poisoning: Death may occur within 2-3 weeks of ingestion with little prior evidence or illness. Clinical signs may include a mild change in behaviour, especially becoming quieter. Respiratory distress and fluid buildup in the abdomen may also happen.

Chronic poisoning: Death may occur after an extended period of ingestion of Patterson’s Curse. Signs are slower to progress, including loss of condition, anorexia, dullness, constipation or diarrhoea. Fluid buildup in the abdomen may happen and the horse can become jaundice. As the disease progresses the horse may stumble or push headlong into fences or even exhibit  aggressive behaviour.

A comprehensive liver function test can be performed by your Vet to determine a diagnosis.

Prevention is the key  so have your grazing paddocks sprayed regularly and keep horses away from paddocks affected by Paterson’s Curse.

If you think your horse shows any of the above signs or has a history of grazing on Paterson’s Curse then you should contact the staff at Mudgee Vet Hospital for advice.

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