Johnsongrass poisoning update - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 05-02-2012, 06:34 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2010
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Johnsongrass poisoning update

Just adding an update on my 20 yr. Old OTTB with Johnsongrass poisoning. He still continues to drip and stream urine: he's incontinent.
There have been no further neurological problems so the problem isn't progressing. This is good. The bad part is that the damage that has been done to his bladder control is permanent. At this point, he won't recover control of his bladder. We're keeping vaseline on his back legs to protect from urine scald. He's perfectly comfortable...we did a three hour trail ride on Sunday. I was riding my horse behind him and you could follow the drips down the trail. The vet has suggested adding vitamin E to his supplements to see if that will help with nerve recovery, but he doesn't hold out much hope.

A brief history: This problem began about mid-March. We noticed dripping and streaming urine and took him to the vet. We then discovered that he had been eating hay with a considerable amount of Johnsongrass in the hay. Our horses are kept at a friends farm about 5 minutes from us. She died a year ago and her daughter took over. We are the only boarders, they have about 17 horses of their own. None of their horses show any symptoms. DB is the only thoroughbred there and the oldest horse. The other horses are quarter horses and TWHs. We're assuming that DBs age and breeding might have predisposed him to this problem since none of the other horses are affected. They've always taken care of our horses as if they were their own and the BO feels terrible about this. DB is currently on senior feed and a SmartPak daily containing OneAC for anhydrosis, BiotinPlus for his hooves. He gets a weekly shot of glucosamine for his joints and is on pasture 24/7. The only time he gets supplemental hay is in the winter when the pasture dies back.

IF this had been spring shoots of Johnsongrass he would be dead because they are loaded with cyanide. Once it is grown, it can be cut and used as hay if it's properly handled. With hay shortages around, you will see it advertised. In our case it was mixed in with coastal bermuda. My advice would be to avoid Johnsongrass hay at all costs. Sometimes it's possible to get away with it with no problems....but not always. So why take the chance?????

I could agree with you, but then TWO of us would be wrong!

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post #2 of 8 Old 07-23-2014, 11:53 PM Thread Starter
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Another update 2 years later: DB is now 22 and still being ridden. He's still dripping and his hind legs are an ongoing issue because of urine scalds. It's not fun for him, or for us. So far we've used Vaseline, Desitin, MTG, and AlluSpray. We alternate treatments depending on the weather (Desitin in the winter is a MESS) and the condition of his legs. He's looking great but he's developing a problem with his stifle and hock that may mean his days of being ridden are coming to an end. Our vet is amazed that he's doing so well. We've had his bladder flushed out due to sediment building up, but he's never had any infections or problems except for the constant leaking affecting his hind legs.

I just thought I'd update this because with the drought and problems with hay, some people might be tempted to turn to Johnson grass. I so wish it could be exterminated. We were very lucky that DB wasn't killed....and yet sometimes as we deal with this, we don't feel that way. DB isn't aging very well. We'll do all we can for him, but we won't let him suffer. If he'd never gotten hold of Johnson Grass, his life might be very different.

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post #3 of 8 Old 07-24-2014, 12:15 AM
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i wonder if some sort shield could be made, like a splatter shield, and hung from his loins that would protect his legs. or, now this sounds odd, but put pants on him, pants with a waterproof part on the front. circus horses can wear them. just a thought.
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post #4 of 8 Old 07-24-2014, 12:29 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks, Tiny. Believe me we (and 3 vets) have explored all the options. One of our vets has a mother who is dealing with the same issue with her aged gelding. The problem is that most of the worst scalding happens on his pasterns. That's a little low for pants. We wash, we dry, and we try to treat quickly before the urine splashes again. Boots and wraps are counter productive. The urine from above runs down under boots and since it's a 24/7 problem, wraps don't allow the skin to heal. Oily dressings like Desitin, Vaseline or MTG seem to be best at shielding from the urine and healing the skin. In the summer Desitin is too the winter it works well but is almost impossible to clean off. Treating and then spraying with AllUspray as a barrier is working about as good as anything. DB's always a gentleman, but he's always been a little bit difficult about his hind feet....and now he really has a reason.

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post #5 of 8 Old 07-24-2014, 12:32 AM
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I'd be all into alternate methods or a little...pee pouch you know where.

Sorry to hear about all your troubles :(

I'm surprised know one commented the first time around but I appreciate your posting and a follow up (wow 2 years!), it's interesting information.
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post #6 of 8 Old 07-24-2014, 01:03 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks, Yogiwick. Alternate methods have been explored. There are none. This horse has no voluntary control of the muscles that cause urination because of nerve damage. When his bladder is full, it spills out. He's not in pain, his bladder isn't in danger of rupturing. He dribbles constantly, and intermittently streams urine. A "little" pee pouch isn't going to do it unless someone was around to empty it every few hours. Urine is heavy and you know how much a horse urinates! We could probably put in a catheter (which would introduce bacteria to his bladder) but where would it empty? If you let it hang, he steps on it and pulls it out? OUCH! If you keep it short, it still drips onto his pasterns. Do you keep him confined like a PMU mare? That is no kind of life for a horse.

Believe me, we've had our vet, another vet and a university vet school look at this. Most cases of Johnson grass progress to the point where the horse has no control of his entire rear end and ends up sitting on the ground until he is euthed! We got off lightly. I didn't post just to talk about our troubles, but to make others aware that feeding a horse Johnson grass is asking for trouble. You don't know how they will react until they do....and there's no cure.

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post #7 of 8 Old 07-24-2014, 08:51 AM
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Big BIG hugs to all of you! What an ordeal this has been and continues to be.

He is one lucky horse.

Just to drive home the dangers of Johnson Grass:

Five or so years ago, my eye doctor lost a cow to Johnson Grass. He had that area fenced off but, cows being what they are, she managed to poke her fat self thru the fence to that Johnson Grass------------ and died an agonizing death, right there in the field.

He performed his own autopsy and lab tests confirmed the cow died from cyanide poisoning in the Johnson Grass. My eye doctor said he didn't need those lab tests, as he could tell by looking at her insides she had been poisoned but, he sent the matter anyway

It's bad enough to get a few stems of that stuff in a normal bale of grass/mix hay but, anyone who knowingly bales and sells mixed Johnson Grass hay needs their head examined. No livestock (horses ARE livestock) should be eating that garbage.

We have a big patch fenced off. I thought it was gone but alas, it seemed overnight I drove past that field and the stuff was six feet tall. That and Pokeweed are the two big things I wish I could bomb right out of the soil

OP, I have no idea, at this juncture of your horse's life, if herbs might help him since his main issue now appears to be muscle control.

At any rate, these products are prescription only. My insulin resistant horse would most likely be dead without the Hot Hoof l. My vet has prescribed one or two other products for another horse; they were successful treating his digestive tract issues when nothing else was.

Check the zip codes in the green bar on the left to see if there is a vet near you, who sells these herbs. You have brought this horse from the Throes of Death, you're not out anything but another check to a vet, if there's a remote chance something Dr. Xie sells might help in some way

Welcome to Dr. Xie's Jingtang Herbal
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post #8 of 8 Old 07-24-2014, 04:27 PM Thread Starter
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Walkin!!! Nice to see you again after a couple of years! I checked your kind posting and there are two vets in GA about 90 miles from me and I actually KNOW one of them!!! I'll give them a call and let you know how it goes. I don't hold out much hope because we've gone the vitamin route, and those nerves are DEAD. Unless some way has been found to regenerate dead nerves, I'm afraid it's hopeless. BUT, as you say, at this point what do I have to lose? It's nice to be back on the forum!
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