What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Ate Poisonous Substance or Toxin, Witnessed


You know that your horse has just ingested a poisonous substance, or a substance that you believe may be poisonous to horses. The safest thing to do is contact your vet immediately, and then place your horse in a stall and let them rest quietly until your vet arrives.

Generally, horses are very good at avoiding toxic substances because these tend to be bitter and unpalatable. Horses usually do not consume enough of these substances to cause toxicity, especially if they have plenty of feed available. However, some toxic substances can cause harmful effects in just a few mouthfuls or can cause local irritation to the mouth or throat.

Unlike many other animals, horses cannot vomit, so drugs that induce vomiting (emetics) are useless in this circumstance. For a short time, there may be a possibility your vet could retrieve the substance from the stomach by flushing with a stomach tube, but that window of opportunity closes within about an hour. They may try later but a normal stomach empties quickly.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • Even if the horse seems normal, it is best to start the conversation.

your role


What To Do

If possible to do without being bitten, pull any remaining material out of your horse's mouth, and wash your hands. If appropriate, find the packaging for the poison, because your vet may ask you about the ingredients. Specific toxins may have specific treatments and antidotes. Your vet will also ask how much of the material you think your horse consumed.

If your vet is able to examine your horse promptly (within an hour of eating the toxic substance), they may try to remove some of it from your horse's stomach with a nasogastric tube. They may also give your horse laxatives such as mineral oil to reduce the absorption of toxins. Further treatments will depend on the toxin ingested and the specifics of the situation.

You can also call the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) 24-Hour Animal Poison Control Center hotline at 888-426-4435. They even have a scale to assess the severity of poisoning based on animal's weight and presumed amount of toxin consumed. A consultation fee may apply.

What Not To Do

Do not try to induce vomiting (which horses cannot do) or perform any other self-help involving the extraction of the toxic material from the horse, unless your vet advises it. You may do more harm than good!

your vet's role

Your vet begins with a careful history from you and a physical exam. Depending on the specific toxin ingested, and the elapsed time since ingestion, your vet may try to remove material from the stomach using a stomach tube. For some toxins, there are specific antidotes that they may choose to treat with. More commonly, supportive nursing care may be needed, along with careful monitoring of status.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • What toxin or poison do you think your horse ingested?
  • Do you have the packaging with a list of ingredients?
  • Can I have your location and directions to get to you as soon as possible?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP