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Kowhai Tree. RIP Tree.Kowhai Tree. RIP Tree.

During April 2019, Louisa visited an interesting case in the Wairarapa.

The owner’s 5 year old dressage mare had recently had treatment for an orthopaedic problem and was being returned to ridden work. The owner noticed that she was behaving oddly – perhaps a case of too much grass and not enough work?

She noticed that she was spooking more than usual, was more highly strung and was not her usual placid self to handle. On the day of the visit, the behaviour had become even more pronounced to the point of being dangerous. She was high stepping with her hind legs, with stringhalt like symptoms, and she appeared to have lack of co-ordination. She did not appear to have an obvious lameness, but when put on the lunge to assess this further, the mare attempted to run off toward a fence in a blind panic! The mare also displayed muscle fasciculations (tremors) most pronounced over her rump and sides. Sensibly, the owner decided to call out the vet as some form of injury to horse or handler seemed imminent.

The mare presented to Louisa much the same as the owner had reported. Her heart rate and respiratory rate were increased, her temperature was normal, her gut sounds were increased in all quadrants and she displayed obvious muscle fasciculations over her body. Her mucous membrane colour and capillary refill times were normal (a measure of hydration). A brief orthopaedic exam showed no obvious lameness but did show intermittent high steps with the back legs and was cut short due to safety. She was in excellent body condition weight wise and her coat was healthy, plus she was on a vet monitored worming program.

Other than returning to work, her management hadn’t really changed. She had moved to a new paddock in the last week or two, which she shared with her usual cow friends. There was no excessive grass cover; she was getting the same hard feed and a small amount of baleage, which the owner was careful to check for moulds.

Sadly, horses don’t always read the text books! What on earth was happening? Colic? Gastric ulcers? ‘Grass affected’? Simple lack of work and fresh grass? Low magnesium? Botulism from baleage?

A presumptive diagnosis of colic +/- ulcers seemed sensible as a starting point and so she was given anti spasmodics, pain relief, ulcer treatment and a mild sedative for her own safety. Bloods were taken for further investigation.

While we waited to check that the medications were going to help, we took a walk around the property. Fortunately, Louisa has become a ‘tree geek’ whilst planting her own lifestyle block and so she noted that the horse was being grazed under a kowhai tree, which are toxic. Neither the mare nor the cows had any history of eating the tree.

All parts of the kowhai tree are toxic, with the seeds being most toxic to all stock and people. They apparently are bitter and so animals usually choose to avoid them. In this case, the owner was kindly using the shelter of the tree to give the mare a nice place to eat her hard feed, which she had a habit of tipping out of her bucket... onto endless numbers of Kowhai seeds!

Removal of animals from the paddock and conservative treatment seem to have effected a full recovery. We spoke to Kathy Parton, a toxicologist at Massey University, about the case for any advice. It would appear it does not take many seeds to provide a lethal dose; this mare appears to have no long lasting effects but it did take her some weeks to get her normal laid back behaviour back. Lucky escape.

If you’re not sure about planting trees or shrubs, there are great resources available online to find out about their potentially toxic effects. There are also excellent plant ID apps and Facebook groups if you’re trying to investigate plants at a new property – Sycamores, Yew, Tutu, Rangiora, Ngaio, Rhododendrons are just a few plants that a well meaning gardener may have planted within reach..

Sadly, but understandably, the only victim in this whole episode was the kowhai tree. RIP tree!


Wolf teeth in horses

Read more >Thursday 18th of July 2019: Wolf teeth are technically known as the first premolar teeth in horses. They usually erupt into the mouth at between five and twelve months of age, but do not continue to grow or erupt into the mouth as do the rest of the cheek teeth. It has been estimated that approximately seventy percent of horses will develop wolf teeth.


Read more >Thursday 18th of July 2019: This is the name given not to "affectionate backs" but to over-riding or impinging of the dorsal spinous processes of the vertebrae commonly in thoracic [chest] or lumbar [lower back] region of the horse.

Often it is in the region of wither or saddle and can be associated with a poor saddle fit or trauma/damage often from as far back as when the horse was being broken in or weaning. Horses that rear up and over backwards and land on their withers is a common "accident" that can cause injury in this area. Sometimes we'll never know the cause.

The Importance of Vaccinations – What’s it all about?!

Read more >Thursday 18th of July 2019: Vaccination provides your horse with important protection against some serious and potentially life-threatening diseases. Vaccines act to stimulate the body's natural response to a disease, allowing a rapid and effective response if that disease is encountered later in life. This could be the difference between severe clinical disease and a healthy horse!

Equine Insurance – should I bother?

Read more >Thursday 18th of July 2019: It's a question that's come up time and time again for me over the last year or two. Often, clients will explain that their horses or ponies are not worth very much money, and so they don't think it's worthwhile. I thought I'd put together some of the aspects to consider, and some of the questions to ask about your potential cover. I'll also summarise some of the costs you might expect for treatment for various conditions - you might be surprised!


Read more >Monday 13th of May 2019: General stiffness, slowing down, difficulty rising... Is it just old age? Our senior pets may show subtle signs or be quite obvious in their attempts to tell us about their problems.

Calici Virus confirmed cases in Hawkes Bay, are your rabbits vaccinated??

Read more >Monday 13th of May 2019: Vaccinating every year against the deadly Calici Virus is extreamly important.

We have had confirmed cases of the disease in Hawkes Bay within un-vaccinated rabbits, which unfortunately resulted in death.

Choosing your next puppy

Read more >Monday 13th of May 2019: Pet ownership is very rewarding but the decision should not be taken lightly as it is a long term and substantial responsibility.

When choosing your next puppy there are many things to consider; preferably a happy and healthy puppy and you should also think about the adult size and type of nature that will suit your family and lifestyle.

Ear Disease

Read more >Monday 13th of May 2019: Duck shooting doesn't seem to cause many concerns for our canine companions, usually only a few cuts and bruises that are insignificant compared to the enjoyment derived from the exercise.

However getting damp in water for long periods can give rise to a flare up of ear disease (otitis externa).

Some dogs seem prone to this, often due to an underlying skin allergy or just the makeup of their ear anatomy. Prolonged moisture in the ears promotes growth of yeasts and bacteria leading to irritation, inflammation and pain. This, left untreated, can lead to more serious middle ear disease that is hard to treat and deafness.

Starvation in the midst of plenty

Read more >Monday 13th of May 2019: Diabetes Mellitus is a disease condition where either the pancreas is not producing enough insulin or the body is unable to use insulin correctly and causing insulin resistance.

When to bring your working dog in to see us…in less than 24 hrs please…

Read more >Thursday 28th of March 2019: Over this busy time of year, it can be easy to overlook the working dog with the limp, or the dog that hadnât eaten last nightâs dinner. What can save you a lot of trouble, both in cost and lack of a worker, is knowing when your dog can wait to see us and when it needs to be seen as soon as possible.

Keeping your working dog working

Read more >Thursday 28th of March 2019: Working dogs are the hardest working and cheapest labour unit on your farm. Here are a few points to consider to ensure they are in optimal health and are able to give you their best.


Read more >Thursday 28th of March 2019: Mis-mating is always a hot topic. If this does occurs and you donât want to breed from that bitch in the future, we recommend having her speyed. Speying is a permanent solution and will not affect her working ability, saves you having to worry about her when she is on heat, and in most instances saves you money as you can reduce the amount of food you feed by about a third. If you donât want her speyed, the only other option is to abort the pregnancy. This uses a very expensive drug and is often more expensive than having her speyed. If you do want to breed from her in the future we recommend having her scanned 25 days after mating. At this point we can still give her the abortion drug. The abortion drug works best given < 21 days (99% effective) but if we scan her and she is not pregnant this will save you a lot of money. The injection given at 21-45 days is 95% effective. Give us a ring to discuss further if you have any questions.

ARTHRITIS- The biggest issue limiting working dogs performance

Read more >Thursday 28th of March 2019: This grading system is helpful to use as guide to get the most out of your working dog team. The following will be a brief description of the four grades along with their corresponding treatment options:

Stitch Up – What can you do to help?

Read more >Thursday 28th of March 2019: Unlike a surgical incision with smooth edges, a laceration is often jagged and irregular and as a result, there can be variable degrees of damage to the underlying tissue and structures depending on the depth and force of the trauma that caused the laceration.

Coughing and Wheezy Horses

Read more >Thursday 7th of March 2019: The classic âcoughing horseâ is a common sight and sound at this time of year, and often transient viral respiratory disease is to blame. But as much as we love to blame a virus, they are not always the cause!

Encysted Strongyles – Small worms, big problems

Read more >Thursday 7th of March 2019: âSmall Strongylesâ or âCyathostomesâ are the terms used for a group of over forty different species of parasites affecting horses. They tend to be the most prevalent parasite within the horsesâ gastrointestinal tract and although small, heavy burdens can result in big problems!

Stomach Ulcers and Gastroscopy

Read more >Thursday 7th of March 2019: Stomach ulcers (gastric ulcers) are a hot topic! Stomach ulceration is a somewhat confusing syndrome â the syndrome can have a multitude of clinical signs, ranging from very subtle performance issues, or picky eating, to weight loss and colic. There is also a multitude of products on the market which claim to help with ulcers, not all being equal.

Slug Bait Poisoning

Read more >Friday 30th of November 2018:

Pet Insurance

Read more >Friday 28th of September 2018: Many people know the importance of insuring their items, their house or car, even their own health. Fortunately we are also able to insure pets, for not only medical and surgical care but in some cases routine visits can be covered (including vaccinations and wellness checks/blood tests).

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