Acorns Could be to Blame for French Horses’ Deaths

At least 10 horses died after consuming acorns, according to a treating veterinarian.

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At least 10 horses have died in northwest France from poisoning after consuming acorns,  according to a treating veterinarian.

The horses had consumed sufficient quantities of acorns to potentially result in tannin toxicity, said Hélène Lemoine, DVM, equine veterinarian in Saint Lô, Normandy, France. Tannin is present in the leaves, bark, and acorns of oak trees and affects the intestinal tract and the kidneys.

“None of the affected horses survived,” Lemoine told The Horse. “As soon as they showed signs of hemorrhagic diarrhea death followed very quickly, usually before we could even arrive on site to examine the horse.”

Strong winds and rain in the region have caused significant quantities of acorns—including unripe acorns, which are more toxic—to fall from the trees recently, often into pastures, Lemoine said. According to the Western Animal and Environmental Anti-Poison Center (CAPAE) in Nantes, France, it takes approximately 3 kg (6.6 lbs) of acorns to poison a 500 kilogram (1,100 pound) horse

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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