Suspected Pokeweed (Phytolacca americanal.) Poisoning as the Cause of Progressive Cachexia in a Shetland Pony

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Abstract

The case of a 6-year-old gelding Shetland pony in a cachectic state with progressive apathy, diarrhea, and difficulties in feed prehension, and a slow rate of ingestion is discussed. The pony showed small hyperemic areas on the buccal mucosa, signs of gastritis, a decrease in the plasma total protein, anemia, and depressive attitude. The pony lived in a small dirt paddock in a semihumid zone where it was evident that many pokeweed (Phytolacca americana l.) plants had been eaten. Based on the pony's history, its clinical signs, and the results of laboratory investigations, a presumptive diagnosis of pokeweed poisoning was made. The pony's recovery was slow, and only after a 5-months period, the pony did start to exhibit normal appetite, regular food consumption, and more active behavior. Cases of pokeweed poisoning could become more common as recent changes in environmental conditions favor the growth of this plant and its dispersal by frugivorous birds. No specific therapy is currently available for pokeweed poisoning in horses; thus, supportive therapies are recommended. Eliminating the source of intoxication is crucial for recovery because pokeweed poisoning can be fatal.

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