Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chrome is eating poisonous Red Maple leaves!!!!

I was taking pictures of Chrome because the fall colors are gorgeous!  Then I realized he was eating leaves.... from a red maple tree....  I'm so terrified he will get sick!  We put out a fresh bale of hay so that he will hopefully be too busy eating hay to eat leaves, but I don't know what to do.  I can't cut them down with leaves on them because they would be even more poisonous and I have no way to get all of the leaves picked up.  I don't have the materials to fence them off (there are six maples in the pasture fairly scattered apart) and I can't really afford to buy enough fencing to surround all of them.  Not to mention, look how close it is to the pond... I raked up as many of the leaves as I could and burned them, but look how many there still are to fall.....

I'm also confused because there have been horses on this property since 1991 and none of them have ever gotten sick or died... but I don't know if they ate the leaves.  What do I do?  I have no place to move him to.  Do I just keep tons of hay out and feed him beet pulp so that he stays so full of roughage that he doesn't want to eat them?  Continue to rake and burn them daily?  What about the stuff he's already eaten?

From what I've read it can take up to four days to shows signs of toxicity.  The signs are jaundice, lethargy, pale gums and dark urine.  There is no cure.  All the vet can do is give fluids and transfusions until the toxins pass and even that isn't always successful.  75% of horses who eat red maple leaves die.... even with immediate veterinarian treatment.  Also even if successfully treated most horses end up with laminitis too.

I feel like I'm going to puke.  Tell me I'm overreacting please.  I'm going to call the vet tomorrow and take the leaves to the extension office to professionally identify them.  Please pray that they are either not red maple or that he hasn't consumed enough to hurt him....

How is it I grew up on this property and always had horses and not a single one of them got sick when my pasture is covered in red maple and ragwort???  Over the course of twenty two years we've had eight horses, one donkey, several cows and tons of goats on this property, all of them lived here for at least a year, and none of them got sick... because of that fact my parents and husband think that there is nothing to worry about, but I can't help worrying.  I'm going to try to go to sleep.  Let me know if any of you have had any experience with maple trees.  Do your horses eat the leaves?  Have they gotten sick?

Edited to Add:  Okay I discussed it with my husband and explained to him that I was scared for Chrome's safety.  He suggested putting them in the round pen until the leaves have fallen and are no longer dangerous.  It shouldn't be any more than a month and some horses stand in stalls all year round.  I think being confined to a round pen is better than risking the danger of poisoning from the leaves.  Maybe I can get part of the pasture fenced off so he doesn't have to stay in there that long.  I'll just have to see, but for now I'm locking him up just to be on the safe side.  Please pray that the amount he has already consumed isn't enough to hurt him.  I'm optimistic that he hasn't eaten too many because there are still soooo many leaves on the trees and everything I've read says they have to eat several pounds worth of leaves to get sick.  Does anyone have any idea how many dry leaves it takes to make a pound?  I'll keep everyone posted.

Edited again to add:  Also while he's confined to the round pen I will be exercising him several times a day with hand walks on the roads and riding him around.  I will also probably turn him out in the pasture during the day, but only when I can supervise so I can chase him away from the maple trees.  Hopefully I realized all of this in time... or maybe they aren't poisonous...


  1. Are you sure they are red maples? Typically red maples have super bright red leaves, almost scarlet colored on the entire tree and the pic shows red-ish and golden leaves. If you provide hay as an alternate food source, they will likely not eat leaves. Good luck!!

  2. To my understanding its the DRIED maple leaves that gain toxicity, not fresh off the tree. IF it is a RED maple the leaves will have a fine serrated edge all the way around. SUGAR maples are smooth.

    (Sugar left Red Right)

    Additionally, unless he was eating those as his sole diet and eating them for a good while, I doubt he will have any noticeable effects.

    Nearly every horse I've ever ridden on trail has taken time to strip a maple of its leaves. Occasionally they'll eat them in the fall, as well. Never have I ever had a horse be sick or die from it.

    The only horse I know who died from eating dried maple leaves was confined over winter in an area with no other option for food aside from the leaves that had fallen from the tree months prior.

    I hope some of this information helps to calm you some. Definitely keep us updated! I'm sending positive juju your way - I'm sure everything is going to be just fine. =)

  3. I like your husband's idea and the other commentators seem to know their maples. I was freaked out over literally everything that grows around my new house in Arizona being toxic for horses, but despite constantly tasting various plants and bushes along the trails, the horses have not been sick. I think a lot of times they spit out the really bad stuff, and they do have to ingest a lot before it has any effects. I know there are different types of maples, so I'll bet the ones you have are not the highly toxic kind, especially since you kept livestock around those trees for years. But keep the horses in the round pen until you can find out what kind of maples they are. That will give you some peace of mind.

  4. Thanks guys! These maples do have serrated edges. Two of them are yellow and the rest are bright red. From what I've read they can be either color. I am definitely going to keep them in the round pen (actually I'm going to build a pen out of it using the existing fence) until I can get them tested. You guys are so good at calming me down. Thanks!

  5. I agree with Liz, that doesn't look like a red maple to me (Quercus rubra). In addition to the difference in leaf edges, red maples will have redish leaf veins on the bottom of green leaves and the trees typically turn completly red in the fall. I had never heard about thrm being poisonous to horses. Thanks for the FYI!

  6. Sending positive thoughts your way. Hopefully the other comments are right and they are not red maples.

  7. K, this is what I understand: It's when the leaves die off prematurely that they are most worriesome. Example a storm blows off still green leaves, or branches with leaves. They may still be toxic, but I don't believe quite as much. Also at my old "wooded" place I took a leaf blower to the pasture, much easier and faster. I didn't hurt nearly as much as I did when raking!!!

  8. Doh! I meant Acer rubrum, not Quercus rubra. Too many red tree species in my life! Sorry about that. I still blame things like this on prego-brain.

  9. LOL Renee! I knew what you meant. :D


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