Guest Author - Kim Wende
Clover provides good nutrition for horses, but some types cause horses to have the slobbers among other things? Slobbers is occasionally seen in horses that consume red and white clover that is infected with a fungus. The fungus produces a mycotoxin that causes the slobbers. Clinical signs include excess salivation, colic and secretion of tears.
The red and alsike clover are thyroid inhibitors, as well as being high in nitrogen. If your horse has thyroid issues it can cause laminitis as well as tying up and body soreness. Poisoning can result with as little as 20% clover.
The first noticeable signs are sunburn of non-pigmented skin, and also of the mucous membranes of the mouth, eyes, and vulva. In more severe cases you will see signs of liver failure which include loss of appetite, massive weight loss, depression, jaundice, circling, yawning, colic, and eventually coma and death.
If the first noticeable signs are recognized early, horses will recover if they are removed from the clover. You will also want to keep them out of the sun until the liver enzyme profile returns to normal. Have your veterinarian check their liver function.
Red clover has ¾ to 1 – inch rose-purple to magenta flowers that grow 12 - 15” in height. The leaves are green with a white V and the stems and leaves are hairy. When baled in hay the hairs form a fine dust. It is biennial so it will live for about two years.
Red clover can develop a fungus that causes excessive salivation making your horse slobber. The fungus is normally found when the clover is wet and baled improperly. Although the slobbering is not life threatening it does cause a great deal of concern. The slobbering will generally go away in a few days after removing the hay or taking them off of the pasture. If you don't remove the clover the toxins can accumulate and it can lead to serious organ toxicities.
White clover is a low growing plant with whitish flowers. As the plant ages there will be a tinge of pink or cream coloring on the flowers. The leaves form the symbol of a shamrock. It can grow in different types of soil, but prefers clay.
Alsike clover is a small ½ – inch pink flower that grows 15 – 30 inches in height. It does not have hairy stems or leaves like the red clover.
If you choose to feed hay with clover in it or put your horse on pasture with clover watch them carefully. If any of the above signs develop you should immediately eliminate the clover from your horses diet. If the problem does not clear up in a few days contact your veterinarian.