Ragwort is a plant which when eaten, causes liver disease.
Ragwort poisoning is an extremely dangerous condition in which horses start eating the ragwort plant (usually dried Ragwort). This usually happens when the plant is dried and gets mixed up in hay. Ragwort poisoning is caused by chemicals in the Ragwort plant which are toxic to the liver. These chemicals in Ragwort do not usually cause your horse to suddenly go off colour but gradually eat away at the liver until it is too late. The trouble with the liver is that you do not see a sign of the problem until a significant proportion of this organ is already damaged.
The trouble with Ragwort-in-Hay poisoning and the liver damage that it causes is that there are not really any medicines available that can help your horse. Normally time is the healer and your vet may prescribe vitamin mixes to help things along. Luckily though in the world of plants there are lots of herbs that can be extremely helpful. The most famous of these is Milk Thistle. This is a very useful plant but there are hundreds of others like Eclipta alba many of which are more effective than Milk Thistle. Combined with other supplements to help liver cells grow back more quickly and you may be able to save your horse.
The good news is that ragwort poisoning is in some cases reversible. The liver can grow back to a large extent. If you use a sensible nutritional approach with the advice of your vet quite often things get back to normal. The difficult again is that so much damage has been done before you notice a problem and Ragwort can hang around in your horse’s bowels for a long time
Horses can generally tell which plants are good to eat. Ragwort is bitter when fresh but when cut and dried it looses this taste and it is easier for horses to eat it accidentally with hay. When included in hay cuttings Ragwort is particularly dangerous.
Make sure you know what Ragwort looks like dried and fresh. Make sure none is in your pasture. If you know Ragwort is around use the Pysllium husks in ClearOut to stop food stagnating in your horse’s guts and flush it out.
See also Ragwort Poisoning and Ragwort Control for more information.