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Professional Version

Toxicoses of Ratites


Thomas N. Tully, Jr.

, DVM, DABVP, DECZM, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University

Reviewed/Revised Jul 2021 | Modified Oct 2022

Many disease toxicoses have been documented in ratites. Exogenously administered selenium has resulted in acute selenium toxicity Selenium Toxicosis in Animals Selenium imbalances are common in production animals. Both acute and chronic selenium toxicosis (or selenosis) occasionally result from supplement overdose; chronic selenosis can also occur... read more in ostriches, leading to pulmonary edema and congestion. The feed additive monensin has been associated with myositis and malabsorption syndrome in ostriches and emus. Gossypol Gossypol Poisoning in Animals Gossypol is produced naturally by the glands of the cotton plant. Although all animals are susceptible to gossypol toxicity, monogastrics, preruminants, immature ruminants, and poultry are affected... read more Gossypol Poisoning in Animals in commercial ostrich feed contaminated with cattle feed resulted in a malabsorption syndrome. Cantharidin Cantharidin Toxicosis in Animals Cantharidin is a potent vesicant and irritant produced by insects commonly known as blister beetles. Cantharidin can sometimes contaminate alfalfa. Cantharidin poisoning causes gastrointestinal... read more Cantharidin Toxicosis in Animals from blister beetles has resulted in hemorrhagic gastritis and enteritis in emus. Young chicks are sensitive to insect stings, and death is common when chicks eat and are stung in the oral cavity by red ants or wasps. Nicotine from cigarette butts has resulted in CNS signs. Toxic plants that contain solanine (eg, silverleaf, nightshade) result in vomiting and diarrhea, whereas plants that contain high levels of nitrates result in dyspnea and CNS signs. Ammonia toxicity Nonprotein Nitrogen Poisoning in Animals Non protein nitrogen (NPN) poisoning (toxicosis) results from excessive consumption of sources of NPN or urea. It is acute and often rapidly fatal, with clinical signs including muscle tremors... read more occurs in birds housed in poorly ventilated barns and results in clinical signs of corneal edema, epiphora, and dyspnea.

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