A closer look: Paspalum Staggers in Horses
Paspalum staggers is a rare condition. The death rate for paspalum staggers is low, but affected animals are at high risk of injury due to incoordination; as such, affected horses warrant prompt attention.
With prolonged exposure to contaminated paspalum, horses can develop weight loss due to reduced mobility and reduced access to feed. In severe cases, complete paralysis and collapse can occur.
Paspalum grass is not toxic in and of itself. Staggers is caused by the ingestion of plants infested by Claviceps paspali and Claviceps clavispora fungi. Toxins produced by the fungi affect the muscles upon ingestion, often resulting in tremors.
The fungi are more likely to be present during humid and warm days, especially during the autumn months.
Testing and diagnosis
Diagnosis of paspalum staggers is primarily based on history of exposure to the plant, symptoms, and detection of the fungi on seedheads in the animal’s feed. In some cases, laboratory testing for the toxin is conducted.
Steps to Recovery
Once diagnosed, treatment options are limited and include the following:
- Removal of fungus-contaminated paspalum sources
- Providing adequate amounts of uncontaminated feed
- Symptomatic and supportive treatment including IV fluids and electrolytes
- Keeping animals in a safe environment until they recover
While prognosis for paspalum staggers is generally good, it is dependent on the amount of toxin ingested, the severity of symptoms, and the timing of treatment. Death is uncommon, but affected horses are at higher risk of injury due to incoordination and falling down.
Affected animals generally recover once the source of the toxin is removed.
Paspalum staggers are not contagious.
Paspalum staggers is prevented by ensuring that horses do not feed on infested dallis grass. Strategies include:
- Removing infested grass from pastures
- Examining forage prior to feeding
- Providing abundant alternative feed
Is Paspalum Staggers in Horses common?
Paspalum staggers is a very rare condition. Paspalum fungal infestation is more common during warm and wet weather.
Removal of toxin source Supportive care