Dangers of Monensin Antibiotics in Horse Feed
 By Winniefield Park   •   6th Dec 2014   •   4,252 views   •   0 comments
Dangers of Monensin Antibiotics in Horse Feed

A stable owner in Florida watched as her horses slowly died of what is believed to be poisoning. As of November 25, three horses have died and as I wrote this 19 more were showing signs that their internal organs are shutting down, according to a Sun-Sentinel news story.

It’s believed that feed given to the horses may have been the culprit. Horse feed can be poisoned in a number of ways. Of course, the poisoning may have been intentional, and any number of toxins could be added that would be undetected when the horses were fed. However, feed can be poisoned accidentally too. In one sad case close to me, several ponies died, and contaminative metals in their feed was blamed. It was thought that the older equipment the feed mill was using was shearing metals into the feed as it was mixed.

It is possible to overdose a horse with some supplements. Selenium, in particular, can be dangerous if the horse is given too much. Vitamin D can cause problems when overdosed and all vitamins and minerals need to be balanced to avoid problems.

Related: Avoiding Feed Mill Horse Feed Poisoning

Three mycotoxins—aflatoxin, vomitoxin and fumonisin, all produced by molds or fungus growing in feed, can be very toxic to horses. Unfortunately, the presence of these contaminants are undetectable by the horse or the horse owner. Substances like rat poison, and even plants growing in your horse’s environment, like bracken fern and red maple, can cause poisoning.

In the case of the Florida stable however, the culprit is a common additive to cattle feed called monensin. It is marketed under such names like Rumensin®. Monensin is a commonly used antibiotic for chickens, dairy and beef cattle. It is routinely fed, and prevents a number of problems as well as boosting the weight gain of beef cattle. For sheep and horses, however, monensin is deadly.

Horses are far more sensitive to the antibiotic than cattle or chickens, and as a result, the horse will suffer heart and muscle damage, and their internal organs will begin shutting down. A mouthful of grain containing a small amount of monensin may not be harmful. But if the horse is given a few pounds of feed containing monensin, the consequences can be dire. Once a horse is poisoned, little can be done.

Monensin can find its way into horse feed two ways. It can be accidently added. Or, if the feed mill is not scrupulous about cleaning its equipment between mixing cattle and horse feed, there can be enough monensin left on the equipment and in the tail end of the cattle or poultry mix to cause harm to horses. This is the usual way that horse feed is contaminated with monensin.

The easiest way to avoid monensin poisoning is of course, not to feed cattle feed. I’m always surprised to hear people claim they’ve been feeding their horses concentrates intended for cattle. This only increases the possibility of monensin poisoning. And the most sure way is to buy your feed from a mill that mixes horse feeds exclusively. This way, you can be sure there is no way monensin will be added to the feed.

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