A blistering attack

By Connie Orcutt • Published: November 1st, 2012
Category: Animal Airwaves

Blister beetles contain a poison so potent that ingesting a few bugs can kill a medium-sized horse. And you could be serving them in your equine buddy’s breakfast.

Fields of clover and alfalfa in the central and southern United States are common habitats for the beetles. Skin contact with their toxin causes blistering, but ingested toxin triggers bigger problems. Painful intestinal inflammation precedes kidney damage and shock. Signs of poisoning include depression, anorexia, colic, increased drinking and urinating and laminitis [lam-uh-nahy-tis] — a painful condition involving the hoof. Death may result in 3 to 18 hours.

Immediate intensive therapy saves some horses, but prevention is the best cure. Inspect hay before feeding, and discard any beetles, alive or dead, with the hay. And wear gloves, because these beetles blister people, too.