by Caitlyn Andrews
August 29, 2018
Have you heard of monensin? You need to know about this feed additive if you have horses.
Monensin is an ionophore antibiotic. You may have heard of monensin referred to by its common trade name - Rumensin.
It's a feed additive commonly used for cattle. It can improve feed efficiency and increase milk production efficiency. It also prevents and controls coccidiosis.
Coccidiosis is one of the most economically devastating diseases in the cattle industry. It causes diarrhea, weight loss, dehydration, loss of appetite, and in some cases, death.
Cattle producers have successfully used monensin for decades to keep their herds healthy.
If monensin is so beneficial for cattle, why does it harm horses?
Horses are highly sensitive to ionophore toxicity. Monensin disrupts the transportation of sodium and potassium in cells. Consuming even small amounts of monensin can lead to heart failure and can be lethal for horses.
You might be thinking that your horse could never get into monensin because you don't have cattle. Of course, horses that live on the same farm as cattle or share the same barns or pastures are at a higher risk.
However, horses can still accidentally ingest monensin without having a cow as a pasture buddy. If you've ever hauled your horse to another farm, practice arena, sale pen, or another unfamiliar place where cattle could have been then your horse could come into contact with cattle feed.
A nosy horse could find some spilled pellets on the ground or leftover in a bucket. Pay attention to your horse and don't let them eat any leftover grain that they find.
It's not just cattle feed you need to watch out for. Monensin is sometimes used in swine or poultry feed. Be cautious and don't let your horse near any feed intended for another species if you are unsure of whether or not it's safe for horses, too.
Even if the feed isn't for another species, it's possible for horse feed to be contaminated with monensin at the plant where it's made. This is why it's important to buy feed from reputable feed mills or manufacturers.
Horses that have eaten feed with monensin can show a variety of signs. It all depends on the individual horse and how much monensin has been consumed.
If you suspect your horse has ingested monensin, you should contact your vet immediately. Symptoms typically appear within 12 - 24 hours after the horse has eaten monensin.
Here are some of the symptoms of monensin poisoning in horses:
Horses may exhibit signs of congestive heart failure after the episode. Sudden death can occur anytime in the weeks or months that follow the incident.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for monensin or rumensin poisoning in horses.
There is no vaccine or magic pill to make it go away.
The best way to stop your horse from suffering monensin poisoning is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
No matter how careful you are as a horse owner, we all know that accidents can happen. A stubborn pony can break out of his stall and open up the feed bins or a mix up at the feed mill could cause monensin to get into your horse's feed.
If your horse ate monensin, try not to panic. Though there is no definitive treatment, it's possible that your horse will recover. If you catch it early, your vet can try to treat the symptoms or administer supportive care.
Often, this done by using activated charcoal or clay products. Your vet may administer these via an esophageal tube. These products absorb the toxins so they can be eliminated through the digestive system instead of being absorbed into the intestines. Your vet may also try administering fluids and electrolytes through an IV.
Horses exposed to monensin can develop permanent heart damage. Even with prompt treatment, it's possible for the horse to pass away weeks or months down the road from heart failure.
This is why it's crucial that you enlist the help of your vet as soon as possible. Be sure to follow any aftercare instructions that are given. Monensin toxicity is serious and you should never assume that your horse will just recover on their own without any help from you or the vet.
Here are some tips for keeping your horse from getting monensin poisoning:
Monensin poisoning can be devastating for horses. This is why it's important to always make sure your horse can't access livestock feed with monensin.
Follow the tips above and never hesitate to contact your vet if you believe your horse has gotten into feed with monensin, even if the horse isn't showing symptoms yet. Prevention and fast action could save your horse's life.
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