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Discussion on Privet (Ligustrum spp)

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Kasey Bliesner
Username: Kalypso

Post Number: 3
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Friday, Jul 15, 2005 - 3:01 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

We bought property a little over a year ago for our horses. The corral area and part of the pasture are surrounded by what we think is a privet hedge. The horses haven't touched it until recently when I noticed our TB/QH gelding munching a few leaves after we pruned it away from the electric fence. I have checked a large number of websites, including the ones recommended here about the toxicity of privet, but I can't seem to get a definitive answer. Some sites say "yes...toxic", most don't even mention it. And none tell the toxicity,what is toxic, or how much they have to eat. Although since my gelding is still alive, it must be more than a few leaves. Anybody have any information on privet and horses?
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Erin Jaffarian
Username: Ejar

Post Number: 17
Registered: 4-2002
Posted on Friday, Jul 15, 2005 - 5:44 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

When I want hard and fast info on poisonous plants, I call the local poison control center. Even though they are dealing with people poisonings rather than animal, and we know our horses are sensitive to more things than we are, they do have a very good handle on how poisonous stuff is. If they tell me don't let little kids near it, then I don't let my horses near it.

I also consulted my Sunset Western Garden Book, which usually matches the poison control center fairly well. It says that the "leaves and fruits cause gastric distress if ingested" for ligustrum.

Since that's not really descriptive, I compared it to oleander and foxglove. Oleandar can kill five year old child with five leaves; the book says "all parts are poisonous if ingested. Don't burn prunings; smoke can cause severe irritation."

Digitalis (foxglove), which is used as a heart medication and can kill a toddler with one leaf, says, "all parts are poisonous if ingested."

The difference in word choice - "digestive distress" vs. "poisonous" - makes me think you should watch for collicky signs, but not other signs of poisoning, like those for kidney failure or respiratory problems.

Hopefully your gelding has decided it doesn't taste good and has a steel drum for a stomach.

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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Username: Dro

Post Number: 13358
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Saturday, Jul 16, 2005 - 7:34 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Taken from the Canadian site that we link to:

Common privet (Ligustrum vulgare) is an ornamental shrub that is often planted as a hedge, and therefore the flowers and berries are trimmed. In older European literature, ingesting the berries has been noted to cause sickness in children. In more recent cases of ingestion by children, symptoms included only vomiting and diarrhea, after up to 12 berries were eaten (Frohne and Pfander 1983). Reynard and Norton (1942) cite the case of sheep that died after ingesting the trimmings from a hedge of a related privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium).

There have not been any toxicity studies in horse nor can I find any cases of Privet poisoning of horses in the scientific or veterinary literature available to me. But the above references suggest caution and I would not leave the prunings lying around.
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Kasey Bliesner
Username: Kalypso

Post Number: 4
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Monday, Jul 18, 2005 - 3:49 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Thanks for the info. My next step was to contact our local extension agency, but I hadn't considered contacting poison control. Thanks again for such a great site, prompt answers, and such useful information!
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