Most cases of buckeye poisoning involve livestock, including cattle, sheep, pigs and horses, which graze on the young sprouts and leaves of the trees when other forage is scarce. Not every animal which eats the plants shows signs of poisoning, however. The buckeye seed or “nut” is toxic as well, although not to squirrels, which will eat them when more favored foods are not available.
The toxic element is called aesculin, and poisoning affects the nervous system. Incoordination and staggering, weakness and trembling, dilated pupils, depression or hyperexcitability, coma and death may all result from buckeye poisoning. GI signs are also common: dogs may have severe gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea), while horses exhibit colic.
There is no specific antidote. Like many poisoning cases, treatment is limited to decontamination and supportive care.
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