The objective of this observational study is to describe clinical, haematological and serum biochemical findings of horses affected with alfalfa dodder (Cuscuta campestris) toxicity.

Twenty horses naturally exposed to alfalfa dodder toxicity were examined and information was collected on history and clinical signs. Physical examination was done on horses in the premises (n=20), and venous blood samples of 12 horses were submitted for haematology and serum biochemical examination for each horse.

Abnormal clinical signs started around 36 hours after horses were fed the contaminated alfalfa. Abnormal signs were seen in 11 horses and those included diarrhoea (n=8), decreased appetite (n=7), neurological signs (n=4) and abdominal pain (n=1). Some horses had multiple clinical signs of the above.

The results of complete blood cell count revealed leukocytopenia, neutropenia and thrombocytopenia. Serum biochemical analysis revealed decreased ALP, AST and CPK levels and increased direct bilirubin level.

The used alfalfa was stopped immediately and a different alfalfa from a new container that did not contain any weeds was fed. Horses on the premises were observed closely, and the abnormal clinical signs resolved within three days. No treatment was implemented.

Knowledge about toxicity of horses by Cuscuta species is scarce in the English veterinary literature and very limited

S. M. Abutarbush, B.V.Sc., M.Vet.Sc, Diplomate ABVP, Diplomate ACVIM

The full article can be read in the Veterinary Record Online: Vet Rec published 23 July 2013, 10.1136/vr.101635