Acorn or other Posining

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Acorn or other Posining Empty Acorn or other Posining

Post  r.cox on Fri Jan 06, 2012 9:09 pm

A friend recently lost her 3 year old male llama. It suddenly went off its feet and died a couple of days later. The local vet carried out a post-morten and suggested spots on the liver suggested it had died from acorn posining. I am told by a reliable source that dark spots on the liver are only a guide and without further examination such spots could be indicative of a multitude of sins causing death. Its mother and several other llamas have shared the same paddock for many years and someone else tells me that whilst acorn can and do kill, it can be from a prolong build up of toxin, acorns are becoming a rather popular quick explanation of death. Anyone any helpful comments?


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Acorn or other Posining Empty Re: Acorn or other Posining

Post  Tim Crowfoot on Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:30 am

This might be helpful. Richard is a vet in New Zealand and has given permission for us to use his material. Although this is written more with cows in mind there is read across to llamas who are also ruminants. We keep our llamas away from the oak trees in the autumn. Hoe this helps

Richard Laven PhD BVetMed MRCVS

The NADIS data show that there is usually an increase in the number of cases of plant poisonings in October, particularly acorn poisoning. As the autumn continues with stronger winds and gales these problems normally increase.

Clinical Signs

Sudden death can occur (although poisoning generally occurs over a period days)

Constipation initially, followed by black watery diarrhoea.

Depression and loss of appetite

Straining to pass faeces and urinate is very common

Weakening, collapse and death (usually within seven days of the onset of signs)

The animals have a normal temperature in most cases

Acorns can cause birth defects if eaten in sufficient quantities by pregnant cattle

Acorns contain gallotannin. In the rumen, gallotannin is broken down to gallic acid and tannic acid. Tannic acid causes ulcerations in the mouth, the oesophagus, and the rest of the intestines. It also damages the kidneys, and it is kidney failure which causes most of the death associated with acorn poisoning.

Acorn poisoning will generally affect only a few animals in the herd, as acorn poisoning only occurs if animals eat large amounts of acorns (which will only occur in cattle which develop a taste for them).

As tannins concentrate in milk fast-growing calves on heavy-milking dams will often be the first animals to show signs.


On the clinical signs described above

Finding large amounts of acorns and/or oak leaves at post mortem (although in advanced cases this may not be the case)

In live animals, blood and urine tests can identify those with kidney failure


There is no specific antidote for acorn poisoning.

If the cattle are removed from the acorn pasture in the early stages, most cattle will recover in two to three days

Good supportive therapy is the only treatment available:

a) Fluid therapy: Oral and intravenous fluids will help keep the kidney functioning

b) Broad-spectrum antibiotics to prevent secondary infection

c) A single dose of a laxative mineral oil may help in the early stages

Cattle that survive are often economically worthless, so euthanasia may be the best option in more severe cases


1) Feeding 1kg/head/day of calcium hydroxide (hydrated lime) can significantly reduce the risk of poisoning

2) However, anticipation of outbreaks, fencing off oak trees and removal from pasture are still the best option

Tim Crowfoot

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Acorn or other Posining Empty Advice from my vet

Post  Caroline on Thu Mar 08, 2012 1:46 pm


I had a similar question and asked my vet if I should keep my llamas from the oak tree in our field. He said that, whilst it is normally a problem, individual llamas can develop a taste for acorns, especially if other food is limited. He said that the animal that over-indulged would be down on the ground within a couple of days and would be likely to die.

In terms of preventive action, I was told not to keep the animals from the tree, but just to sweep up excess acorns every other day or so. I swept the area daily since my llamas were on a diet and I did notice an increased liking for acorns in one of them.

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