Things That Are Toxic To Sheep

Photo by Avi Werde on Unsplash

This resource has been fully reviewed and updated by a member of The Open Sanctuary Project’s staff as of December 23, 2021

It can be a challenge to ensure sheep residents have healthy, happy lives after coming to a sanctuary, and there are many different aspects of care to consider each day. Unfortunately, toxic and poisonous hazards are sometimes overlooked in the hustle and bustle of operating a sanctuary. While minor exposure to many of these toxins are unlikely to cause serious problems, large amounts can cause severe health issues and sadly, even death. There are also some toxins that are highly dangerous even in small amounts.

In order to help ensure you never run into this problem, we have compiled this resource of common plants and other potentially toxic things that have been known to be a problem for sheep.

Toxic Plants

This is not an exhaustive list. There may be particular plants that grow in your region that are not included on the list. Check with your region’s agricultural department to ensure you have a full picture of what could be problematic for sheep in your area!

Ask About Activated Charcoal

While prevention is imperative when it comes to protecting your residents from toxins, in the event that they accidentally ingest something toxic, the administration of an activated charcoal product may help absorb the toxins. This is not a magic cure and may not be appropriate in all situations, but it can be helpful to have on hand. We suggest asking your veterinarian if there are specific products they recommend for the various species in your care so you can have them ready should you need them. In addition to seeking urgent medical care, if a resident ingests a toxin, ask your veterinarian if administration of activated charcoal is advised.

Plants That Are Toxic To Sheep

We have built a list below of a number of plants known to be toxic in some way to sheep.1,2,3,4,5 If you’d like more information, Check out The Open Sanctuary Project’s Global Toxic Plant Database and filter Species Afflicted by sheep in order to see a list of plants across the world that are toxic to sheep. Please note that, while comprehensive, this list may not contain every single plant toxic to sheep!

Adonis, Pheasant's Eye

  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • cardiac arrhythmias

Azalea

  • anorexiaPhoto by Jeffrey Hamilton on Unsplash
  • excessive salivation
  • vomiting
  • colic
  • frequent defecation
  • in severe cases, muscle weakness
  • bradycardia
  • cardiac arrhythmia
  • weakness
  • paralysis
  • coma may precede death

Bitterweed, Rubberweed

  • If ingested in lesser quantities over a period of weeks exhibit the following symptoms:
  • depressed
  • off-feed
  • teeth grinding
  • hunched-up appearance
  • muscle tremors
  • weakness
  • recumbency
  • regurgitation
  • lung congestion
  • coughing
  • pneumonia
  • death

Black Henbane, Hogs Bean

  • decreased salivation (dry mouth)H. Zell
  • bloat
  • intestinal stasis
  • colic
  • diarrhea may result
  • ataxia due to muscle weakness
  • dilated pupils are common and animals may have difficulty seeing normally.
  • excitement and convulsions may occur when large amounts of plant are eaten

Black Locust

  • diarrhea
  • weakness
  • depression
  • cold extremities
  • weak pulse
  • irregular heartbeat

Bouncing Bet, Soapweed

  • anorexia
  • decreased rumen activityInAweofGod'sCreation
  • excessive salivation
  • colic
  • diarrhea
  • acute liver toxicity and death are possible

Brackenfern

  • weaknessPhoto by Mike Erskine on Unsplash
  • weight loss
  • pronounced bleeding
  • most often fatal after diagnosis
  • lower cumulative doses are carcinogenic

Buckwheat

  • Animals with white skin are most severely affected.Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay
  • Black skinned animals are not affected except for showing photophobia if the eyes are not pigmented. Initially the non pigmented skin becomes reddened, severely pruritic, swollen and painful.
  • Severe photosensitization results in serum exidation and necrosis of the skin, causing the skin to become dry, parchment-like and eventually sloughing.
  • Affected animals become very agitated when exposed to sunlight often desperately seeking shade under vehicles, buildings, trees etc. to avoid exposure to sunlight light.
  • Photophobia and tearing may be evident.

Buffalo Bur, Kansas Thistle

  • bloatingAndrey Zharkikh
  • diarrhea may result from eating the young green plants.

Castor Bean

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • increased thirst
  • convulsions
  • prostration
  • circulatory collapse

Cocklebur

  • symptoms appear within a few hours
  • weakness
  • unsteady gait
  • twisting of neck muscles
  • depression
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • labored breathing
  • rapid, weak pulse
  • death

Colorado Rubberweed

  • salivation
  • coughingMatt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
  • vomiting rumen contents
  • rumen stasis
  • bloat
  • weakness
  • recumbency
  • death
  • Poisoning is infrequent when other forages are available.

Cow Cockle, Spring Cockle, Dairy Pink

  • diarrhea
  • acute liver failure

Crotolaria, Rattlepod

  • Yellow coloration to the mucous membranes (jaundice), weight loss, diarrhea, rectal prolapse, edema of the legs, red urine (hemoglobinurea) are signs of severe liver disease. Dinesh Valke
  • Abnormal neurologic behavior develops (depression, aimless wandering, head pressing) once sever liver degeneration is present.
  • Secondary photosensitization develops as a result of severe liver disease.Vengolis [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
  • White skinned (non pigmented) areas become red, swollen, and painful before the skin dies and sloughs-off as is if severely sun-burned.

Curly Leafed Dock, Sorrel

  • Within a few hours of consuming toxic levels of oxalates, the following symptoms may occur:
  • muscle tremors
  • tetany
  • weakness
  • reluctance to move
  • depression
  • recumbency
  • Coma and death may result within 12 hours.
  • Animals that survive the acute effects of oxalate poisoning frequently develop kidney failure. If animals do not die from the acute effects of the low blood calcium levels, death results from kidney failure.

Day Blooming Jasmine, Night Blooming Jasmine, Cestrum

  • Animals that have consumed the calcinogenic Cestrum diurnum over a period of weeks, develop a syndrome of:
  • chronic weight loss
  • stiffness
  • reluctance to move
  • lameness
  • eventually recumbency
  • Affected animals have elevated blood calcium levels. Death results from progressive calcification of the soft tissues of the body.
  • Animals consuming the non-calcinogenic Cestrum species (all Cestrum species except Cestrum diurnum) develop signs of:
  • liver failure
  • including weight loss
  • depression
  • jaundice
  • hepatic encephalopathy

Death Camus

  • excessive, foamy salivation
  • vomiting
  • frequent urination/defecation
  • diarrhea
  • convulsions
  • muscle weakness
  • staggering
  • rapid/weak pulse and respiration
  • Death can occur within days after ingestion of 0.5-2% of body weight.

Desert Baileye

  • loss of appetiteDick Culbert from Gibsons, B.C., Canada [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
  • vomiting rumen contents
  • green staining around the lips and nose.
  • reluctance to move
  • muscle tremors
  • incoordination
  • prostration
  • rapid, pounding heart rate.
  • coughing may indicate the presence of an inhalation pneumonia resulting from the regurgitation of rumen contents

Dogbane, Indian Hemp

  • Dogbane is rarely eaten by livestock unless they are starving.Aphidoidea (Emily S. Kloosterman) at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)] Fritzflohrreynolds [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
  • abdominal pain due to hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
  • irregular heart rate
  • decreased cardiac output
  • death

Elderberry

  • increased heart rateImage by Mabel Amber, still incognito... from Pixabay
  • venous blood is bright cherry-red in color
  • increased respiratory rate
  • panting
  • open-mouthed breathing
  • extreme difficulty breathing
  • bright red mucous membranes
  • death results rapidly from asphyxiation.https://www.maxpixel.net/Elder-Elderberries-Black-Elderberry-Sambucus-Nigra-1595360
  • Cyanide poisoned animals become very excited when unable to breath.
  • Abortions may occur several days later if the mother survives the acute effects of cyanide poisoning.

English Ivy

  • local irritationPhoto by Jerry Wang on Unsplash
  • excessive salivation
  • nausea
  • excitement
  • difficult breathing
  • severe diarrhea
  • thirst
  • coma

Foxglove

  • gastrointestinal irritationPhoto by Lai Man Nung on Unsplash
  • diarrhea
  • anorexia
  • nausea
  • slow but strong pulse
  • contracted pupils

Flax Plant

  • difficulty breathing
  • open mouth breathing
  • excessive salivation
  • nervousness
  • weakness
  • mucous membranes appear pink and redder than normal
  • venous blood is cherry red in color
  • collapse
  • death

Goats Rue, Professor Weed, French Lilac

  • difficulty in breathinghttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Galegaofficinalis03.jpg
  • coughing due to the pulmonary congestion and edema
  • Animals rarely eat the plant unless forced into doing so when other forages are not available.

Greasewood

  • muscle tremorsCory Maylett [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
  • tetany
  • weakness
  • reluctance to move
  • depression
  • recumbency
  • Coma and death may result within 12 hours.
  • Animals that survive the acute effects of oxalate poisoning frequently develop kidney failure.
  • Animals die from renal failure.

Halogeton

  • muscle tremorsMatt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]
  • tetany
  • weakness
  • reluctance to move
  • depression
  • Coma and death may result within 12 hours.
  • Animals that survive the acute effects of oxalate poisoning frequently Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]develop kidney failure.

Holly

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • stupor in animals if ingested in large amounts

Horsebrush

  • photosensitization occurs secondarily to the liver disease.
  • redness and edematous swelling of the tissues around the head
  • severe anorexiaDcrjsr [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
  • depression
  • dyspnea
  • prostration
  • death from acute liver failure.
  • Sheep seldom eat horsebrush when other forages are available.

Horse Nettle, Bull Nettle

  • salivation
  • colic
  • intestinal stasis
  • diarrhea
  • muscle tremors
  • weakness
  • rapid heart rate
  • weak pulse
  • Hemolysis and anemia may be present in severe cases.
  • labored breathing
  • nasal discharge
  • depression
  • drowsiness
  • incoordination
  • paralysis of rear legs
  • coma
  • death

Horsetail

  • symptoms are slow to developPhoto by Alesah Villalon on Unsplash
  • jaundice
  • loss of appetite
  • weakness
  • staggering gait
  • excitability
  • paralysis

Houndstongue

  • weight lossNPS / Jacob W. Frank
  • photosensitivity
  • jaundice of mucous membranes
  • poor condition
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal discomfort
  • head pressing
  • walking aimlessly
  • convulsions
  • coma
  • effects are cumulative, so even small amounts over time may result in a toxic dose
  • prolonged ingestion leads to liver failure
  • Ingestion of 5% of a sheep’s body weight in plant matter can be fatal.

Japanese Pieris

  • excessive salivation, vomiting, and abdominal pain usually develops 6-8 hours after the plant is eaten.
  • weaknessPhoto by David J. Stang [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
  • recumbency
  • increased heart rate
  • increased respiratory rate
  • Inhalation pneumonia is frequently the cause of death.
  • Seizures and convulsions occur in severely poisoned animals.

Jimmy Weed, Burrow Weed, Rayless Goldenrod

  • acetone odor to the breath
  • hindlimb weakness
  • knuckling at the fetlocks
  • posterior paralysis
  • severe muscle tremors
  • weakness
  • recumbency
  • respiratory paralysis
  • coma
  • death

Jimsonweed

  • dilation of the pupils
  • impaired vision
  • fast, weak pulse
  • nausea
  • loss of muscular coordination
  • violent, confrontational behaviors
  • trembling
  • milk is tainted

Johnson Grass

  • excessive salivation John Tann Johnsonn Grass, Sorghum halepense, a widspread weed of crops. Narrabri-Bingara Rd, near Paleroo, NSW Australia. January 2009.
  • difficulty in breathing
  • open mouth breathing
  • nervousness
  • weakness
  • urinary incontinence
  • cherry-red mucous membranes appear
  • cherry-red venous blood
  • Stressing the animal rapidly leads to collapse and death.

Kentucky Coffee Tree

  • excessive salivationMONGO [Public domain]
  • colic
  • diarrhea
  • depression

Kochia

  • photosensitization (appears as sunburn or white patches)
  • increased water consumption
  • weight loss and poor condition
  • poor vision or star gazing
  • lethargy
  • rough hair
  • stiff gait
  • jaundice
  • progressive liver disease and failure
  • kidney failure due to calcium oxalate crystals
  • hypocalcemia
  • spontaneous abortion
  • bloat

Lambs Quarter

  • Sudden deaths may occur as a result of acute respiratory failure.6th Happiness [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
  • Pregnant animals may abort at any stage of pregnancy.

Lantana

  • rapid heart rateImage by Grace Shih from Pixabay
  • difficulty in breathing
  • photosensitization, especially of the white skinned areas
  • conjunctivitis
  • Acute cases develop hemorrhagic diarrhea. Chronic poisoning results in constipation
  • jaundice
  • Death results after animals become severely emaciated.

Laurel

  • drooling
  • watery eyes
  • runny nose
  • vomiting
  • complete or partial blindness
  • drowsiness
  • convulsions
  • paralysis

Leafy Spurge

  • unlikely to eat unless starving
  • excessive salivation
  • vomiting
  • colic
  • diarrhea
  • sap can cause eye irritation

Leucana, Whiteland Tree, Guaje, Huaxin, Koa Haole

  • decreased feed consumption, excessive salivation
  • musculoskeletal degeneration
  • poor weight gain
  • congenital defects
  • enlarged thyroid glands (Goitre) in the fetus and mother
  • hair loss

Locoweed

  • depression
  • weakness
  • weight loss
  • incoordination

Lupine

  • teratogenic (fetal damage, abortion)
  • muscle tremors/spasms
  • labored breathing
  • incoordination
  • staggers
  • difficulty moving
  • agitation
  • loss of vision
  • head pressing
  • convulsion
  • coma

Marsh Arrow-Grass

  • symptoms appear rapidly
  • rapid, difficult breathing
  • almond odor to breath
  • sheep go down with head turned to one side

Milk Thistle

  • collapse and death may be the first symptoms of acute toxicity
  • frequent urination
  • mucous membranes (and blood) are brownish in color
  • frothing at the mouth
  • diarrhea
  • unthriftiness
  • trembling
  • staggering
  • abortions

Milkweed

  • loss of appetite
  • constipation
  • drooling
  • excitable
  • difficult breathing
  • rapid, weak pulse
  • convulsions
  • death

Monkshood, Aconite

  • salivation
  • bloating
  • muscle weakness
  • staggering gait
  • recumbency with inability to stand due to muscle paralysis.
  • increased respiratory rate
  • difficulty breathing
  • Sudden death due to severe cardiac arrhythmias is common.

Mustards

  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting
  • Salivation
  • mouth ulcers
  • photosensitization 
  • blindness
  • goiter
  • nitrate toxicosis
  • head shaking
  • aimless wandering

Nightshade

  • abdominal pain
  • stupidity
  • dilation of pupils
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhea
  • loss of muscular coordinationPhoto by Daura Noble Martínez on Unsplash
  • unconscious
  • death

Nolina, Bear Grass, Bunch Grass

  • weight loss
  • photosensitization
  • swollen, reddened skin, especially of white skinned areas, or areas with little hair covering. The skin in these areas dies eventually, becoming parchment-like and peels off.
  • severe jaundice
  • cholecystitis
  • Animals will generally not eat this course plant unless there are no other forages available.

Oak

  • Acorns and young shoots can cause severe poisoning. Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash
  • anorexia
  • constipation that develops into diarrhea
  • gastroenteritis
  • thirst
  • excessive urination

Onions

  • distinct odor of onion on the breath, feces, urine and milk of poisoned animals.Laura Hubers / USFWS
  • weakness and recumbency due to severe anemia.
  • pale mucous membranes
  • fast, weak pulse
  • dark red-brown colored urine
  • increased respiratory rate
  • staggering and collapse as a result of anemia
  • In severely anemic animals, stress and heavy parasite infestations may be sufficient to cause death.

Oleander

  • severe vomitingPhoto by Anna Hliamshyna on Unsplash
  • diarrhea
  • swollen and inflamed oral tissues
  • cold extremities
  • dilated pupils
  • increased heart rate
  • weakness
  • death

Orange Sneezeweed

  • decreased appetite
  • bloating
  • teeth grinding
  • rumen stasis
  • projectile vomiting of rumen contents leading to dehydration, weight loss, weakness and inhalation pneumonia.
  • A common name for the disease is ‘Spewing sickness’
  • muscle weakness
  • ataxia, especially in lambs causing them to lag behind the flock.
  • inhalation pneumonia

Perilla Mint

  • acute respiratory difficultyVengolis [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
  • rapid open mouth breathing
  • death

Pigweed

  • edema
  • nasal discharge
  • increased heart rate and respiration
  • bloat
  • kidney damage/failure; diarrhea, sometimes bloody
  • lack of appetite
  • weight loss
  • depression
  • weakness
  • muscle tremors
  • incoordination, staggering, or difficulty walking
  • lethargy
  • facial twitches

Poison Hemlock

  • death may occur within 15 minutes
  • frothing at the mouth
  • uneasiness
  • pain
  • dilated pupils
  • clamping of jaws
  • grating of teeth
  • vomiting
  • weak, rapid pulse
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • convulsions
  • respiratory failure

Ponderosa Pine

  • renal failurehttps://www.flickr.com/photos/jsjgeology/25571166908
  • abortion
Princes Plume

  • cracked hooves and lamenessPhoto by Kip E. Panter

Purple Locoweed

  • decreased appetite and weight loss
  • malabsorption of essential minerals and vitamins
  • decreased growth rates
  • lambs may be born with deformed legs.
  • abortions and fetal death are common
  • abnormal behavior including sudden changes in temperament
  • aggressiveness
  • ataxia
  • falling over unexpectedly
  • violent reaction to routine management practices such as putting a halter on

Purslane

  • muscle tremorsDavid E Mead [CC0]
  • tetany
  • weakness
  • reluctance to move
  • depression
  • recumbency
  • possible kidney failure
  • coma and death may result within 12 hours.

Rhododendrons

  • anorexia
  • coughing
  • choking
  • retching
  • foaming at the mouth
  • vomiting
  • colic
  • paralysis
  • depression
  • groaning
  • muscle twitching
  • death

Salt Bush

  • lameness due to hoof wall deformity and horizontal cracks in the https://www.flickr.com/photos/carolannie/37490762214/hoof walls

Scotch Broom

  • excessive salivationImage by Etienne GONTIER from Pixabay
  • anorexia
  • colic
  • muscle tremors and incoordination
  • possible muscle degeneration

Serviceberry, Saskatooh Berry, June Berry

  • excessive salivationhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/mricon/4825749576 Image by lqlqlqlq75 from Pixabay
  • difficulty in breathing
  • open mouth breathing
  • excitement
  • nervousness
  • pink or red mucous membranes (more than normal)
  • cherry-red venous blood
  • Stressing the animal rapidly leads to collapse and death.
  • Pregnant animals may abort if they survive the cyanide poisoning themselves.

Snakeweed, Broomweed, Turpentine Weed

  • diarrhea followed by constipationMokkie [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]https://www.flickr.com/photos/zharkikh/44084830381
  • loss of weight
  • abortions
  • retained fetal membranes.

Sneezeweed

  • symptoms are slow to develop
  • loss of vigor
  • loss of flesh
  • rapid pulse
  • labored breathing
  • loss of muscular control
  • drooling
  • high temperature
  • dizziness
  • spasms
  • convulsions

Sophora, Texas Mountain Laurel, Mescal Bean, Coral Bean, Frijollito

  • After consuming, stress or exercise often induces:
  • tremblingStan Shebs [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)] https://www.flickr.com/photos/kretyen/2692744968
  • stiff gait
  • falling
  • difficulty in rising

Spiny Plants (burs, thistles, needle grass)

  • drooling
  • lack of appetite
  • lameness
  • bloody saliva
  • head-shaking
  • weeping eyes
  • excessive thirst
  • lesions/ulcerations/blisters in mouth
  • rubbing; licking
  • mouth open, tongue hanging, or yawning
  • snorting or blowing
  • anxiety
  • weight loss
  • dehydration
  • decline in temperament
  • coughing
  • vomiting
  • occasionally colic and/or impaction

Spotted Or Blue Locoweed

  • weight loss
  • poor growth rates possibly due to poor absorption of nutrients from the intestinal tract.
  • Calves, lambs, and foals may be born with deformed crooked legs.
  • Abortions and fetal death are common.https://www.flickr.com/photos/ken-ichi/4528534113
  • depression
  • incoordination
  • staggering gait
  • unpredictable behavior
  • poor vision

Spurge

  • Contact with sap causes:
    • inflammation of skin
  • Eating causes:
    • diarrhea
    • vomiting
    • swelling around mouth and eyes
    • abdominal pains
    • muscle tremors
    • sweating
    • tainted milk has reddish color

St Johns Wort

  • photosensitization
  • photodermatitis
  • skin blisters
  • lesions on udders causing pain and refusal to nurse
  • skin may peel or slough, sometimes in sheets
  • redness and swelling of eyes
  • avoidance of sunlight
  • higher pulse rate and temperature
  • seeking out of water
  • head rubbing
  • anxiety
  • occasionally convulsions and/or death.
  • There may be a delay of up to three weeks after ingestion before symptoms appear.

Suckleya

  • excessive salivationUSDA ARS [Public domain]
  • sudden death
  • mucous membranes appear pink and redder than normal
  • venous blood is cherry-red
  • Stressing the animal rapidly leads to collapse and death.
  • difficulty in breathing
  • open mouth breathing
  • nervousness
  • weakness
  • death
  • excitement
  • nervousness
  • abortion

Sudan Grass

  • difficulty breathing
  • brownish “chocolate” blood
  • collapse
  • death

Sweetclover

  • lameness
  • bruises
  • hematomas
  • excessive bleeding
  • animals may have bloody noses
  • bloody feces
  • excessive bleeding from wounds or incisions

Tall Buttercup

  • inflammation and blisters where plant juice touches skin
  • mouth blisters cause drooling and loss of appetite
  • other symptoms similar to those for marsh marigold

Tansy Ragwort

  • nervousness
  • chills
  • pale mucous membranes
  • loss of coat luster
  • strong, rapid pulse
  • high temperature
  • staggering gait
  • weakness
  • death

Two-Grooved Milk-Vetch

  • cracking of hoof wallsDave Powell [Public domain]
  • lameness
  • deformed bones of the legs (crooked legs).
  • abnormal behavior including sudden changes in temperament
  • aggressiveness
  • ataxia
  • falling over unexpectedly
  • violent reaction to routine management practices such as putting a halter on
  • abortions
  • breaking off of long hairs
  • rarely if ever eat two-grooved milk vetch because it is unpalatable due to the high levels of selenium it accumulates
  • Its presence in a pasture however indicates that the soil is high in selenium, and therefore other forages in the area will accumulate selenium and pose a risk to residents.

Water Hemlock

  • death may occur within 15 minutes
  • frothing at the mouth
  • uneasiness
  • pain
  • dilated pupils
  • clamping of jaws
  • grating of teeth
  • vomiting
  • weak, rapid pulse
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • convulsions
  • respiratory failure

White Snakeroot

  • depression
  • inactivity
  • arched body
  • hind feet placed close together
  • excessive salivation
  • nasal discharge
  • nausea
  • rapid, labored breathing

Wild Cherry

  • Wilted cherry tree leaves cause anxiety
  • staggering
  • falling down
  • convulsions
  • rolling of the eyes
  • tongue hanging out
  • loss of sensation
  • dilated pupils
  • The sheep can then become quiet, bloat and die within a few hours of ingestion.

Yew

  • gastric distress
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • tremors
  • dilated pupils
  • respiratory difficulty
  • weakness
  • fatigue
  • collapse
  • coma
  • convulsions
  • circulatory failure
  • death
  • Survival after yew poisoning is rare.

Other Potential Sheep Toxins

Blue-Green Algae 6,7,8

Blue-green algae are usually often found in stagnant, slow-moving water when temperatures are high. Consumption of this algae can result in poisoning in sheep and other animals. Symptoms often occur quickly after ingestion. Symptoms may include lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, hypersalivation, nasal discharge, muscle tremors, coughing, frothing at the mouth, sneezing, involuntary eye movement, labored breathing, and bloody diarrhea. In severe cases, sheep may collapse and die. Photosensitization may be a delayed result of ingestion, causing reddening and irritation of the area around the mouth, the ear, or other areas of the body.

Cantharidiasis (Blister Beetle Poisoning)9,10

Blister beetles contain cantharidin, a chemical that works as a defense mechanism against predators. Cantharidin can injure or kill sheep when ingested, though horses are more seriously affected. Contact is usually made when sheep eat alfalfa hay that beetles were gathered up in and crushed during harvesting. First cutting hay is less likely to contain blister beetles as they tend to gather later in the season. Sheep that ingest cantharidin may experience symptoms such as diarrhea, depression, abdominal pain, recumbency, increased heart and respiratory rate, dehydration, frequent urination, and in severe cases, death.

If you suspect Blister Beetle Poisoning, contact your veterinarian immediately. If early veterinary care is provided, afflicted sheep may recovery.

Copper11,12,13

While copper is an important mineral in the diet of sheep (in very small amounts), it is possible for them to develop copper poisoning as a result of too much copper in the diet. Typically toxicity is due to ingestion of something not intended for sheep, such as complete “feeds” or mineral blocks designed for other species. There is a form of secondary copper poisoning as well that is caused by a sudden release of copper from the liver (where it is stored).  Times of extreme stress can result in a release of copper in the system that can contribute to copper poisoning. Access to pastures where the feces of pigs or chickens have been spread should be avoided as they have higher concentrations of copper. 

Symptoms of copper poisoning in sheep may include:

  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Panting
  • Jaundice
  • Aborted fetuses
  • Dark red or brown urine
  • Gastric distress
  • Death

Grain Overload (Acidosis, Grain Poisoning)14,15

Grain overload occurs when sheep eat large amounts of grain, causing carbohydrates to be released in the rumen and ferment instead of being normally digested. Lactic acid is produced resulting in slowing of the gut, dehydrations, and sometimes, sadly, death. While wheat and barley are the most common causes of grain overload, lupins and oats can also be the culprit.

Grain overload is most commonly seen when ruminants have access to bins or bags of grain or have an outdoor living space that has had grains recently harvested, leaving leftover grain. Grain overload can also happen if a sheep resident has a change in diet too quickly as opposed to a gradual shift. Similar issues can happen from ingesting large amounts of certain fruits or even potatoes in a short amount of time.

Signs of grain overload include:

  • Bloating (left side of abdomen)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Recumbancy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Increased thirst
  • Diarrhea
  • Mucle weakness
  • Staggering
  • Standing with legs apart
  • Collapse
  • Laminitis
  • Death

If you suspect a resident has grain overload, contact a veterinarian immediately. The sooner treatment can begin, the better.  The course of treatment will depend on how severe the condition is. depends on the severity of the condition. 

Hardware Disease

Hardware Disease refers to the injuries that can result from any resident eating something they shouldn’t, especially pieces of human-made hardware like nails, screws, and staples. Hardware disease can have devastating effects on a resident. Check out our resource on Hardware Disease prevention here.

Lead Toxicity16,17,18,19

Lead poisoning can be serious for sheep. While lead was once used in paint (and even pesticides), it can also be found in the environments where old machinery or railroad ties, or leaded gas was once stored. Residents could ingest paint by chewing or licking surfaces that contained lead or even by ingesting certain plants that have absorbed lead from the polluted soil.

To be safe, you can have the soil tested. Local agricultural extension offices or environmental conservation services are good places to contact to learn more about testing your soil. The process should be fairly easy. In the meantime, be sure to prevent residents from accessing areas where you suspect they may come into contact with lead.

You may see the following symptoms:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Anemia
  • Blindness
  • Staggering
  • Rumen Stasis
  • Headpressing
  • Dullness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Aborted fetus
  • Death

Consult a veterinarian immediately if you suspect a resident has ingested lead or is beginning to show symptoms of lead poisoning.

Mycotoxins20,21,22,23,24

Mycotoxins are a toxin produced by molds (fungi) that are harmful to many animals. Mycotoxins can affect sheep through contaminated food or bedding. Moist, warm environments encourage mold growth. While sheep are more resistant to the effects of mycotoxin than horses or some other animals, they can still be seriously affected. The type, amount, and frequency of exposure to mycotoxin affect the severity of toxicosis. Pregnant sheep may be more susceptible to some mycotoxins, causing additional reproductive health symptoms. Some signs of different mycotoxin poisoning include:

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Appetite loss
  • Respiratory issues
  • Rumin stasis
  • Increased susceptibility to disease
  • Poor coat quality
  • Impaired growth
  • Oral lesions
  • Recumbency
  • Lethargy
  • Jaundice
  • Convulsions
  • Reproductive issues (lack of milk, infections, abortions etc..)
  • Death in severe cases

Prevention is key in preventing serious health issues related to mycotoxin toxicosis. Luckily, there are a number of steps you can take to help protect residents:

  • Store any grains, hay, or other foods in cool, dry, and clean areas.
  • Keep grains and concentrates in secure food storage bins.
  • Try to keep food storage areas protected from mice and rats and other wildlife.
  • Use the oldest food first and try to use up open bags within a few weeks, fewer even during the summer.
  • Clean storage cans and bins thoroughly.
  • Keep living areas clean.
  • Check with the manufacturer or supplier of the product to see if they regularly test for the presence of mycotoxins in grains before mixing food. If they don’t, try to find another supplier.
  • If you are concerned about the possibility of mycotoxin contamination, have your food stores tested. This could be especially important if you have cows that show initial signs of mycotoxin exposure.

Pesticides, Herbicides, And Rodenticides25,26,27

It may not come as a surprise that pesticides, some herbicides, and rodenticides can cause toxicosis in sheep if ingested. If sheep ingest plants that have been sprayed with certain herbicides, they can become ill or even die. Many herbicides have been developed to be safer for animals but ingestion of large amounts can cause poisoning. Many pesticides can also cause toxicosis.

Rodenticides can as well and we encourage sanctuaries to seek out alternatives. While rats and mice can pose challenges for sanctuaries, it is important to respect them and use compassionate mitigation practices. Many rodenticides are anticoagulants (They prevent the blood from clotting) though there are other rodenticides that can cause serious issues and fatality if ingested. It is imperative that they do not come into contact with these poisons. There are many new and innovative ways to address rodent populations that are more effective and compassionate.

Early treatment is critical. If you suspect a resident may have ingested any of the poisons above, contact your veterinarian immediately. Blood tests may confirm poisoning.

Selenium28,29,30

Selenium is a highly toxic element when taken in quantities larger than the necessary dietary amount. While selenium poisoning can be an issue for many animals, sheep and other animals that browse and graze are generally at a higher risk. Plants can contain varying amounts of selenium depending on the presence and environmental factors in the soil. Poisoning can be acute or chronic.

Symptoms of acute selenium poisoning may include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Salivation
  • Staggering
  • Anxiety/Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Increases heart rate
  • Lack of coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Teeth grinding
  • Drooping ears
  • Recumbency
  • Respiratory distress

Symptoms of chronic selenium poisoning may include:

  • Anemia
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Reproductive issues
  • Dull coat
  • Slow wool growth
  • Lameness
  • Impaired immune function

Selenium deficiency can also be an issue in various regions and cause health issues. Talk with your vet about proper dietary considerations for cow residents and how to avoid selenium poisoning or deficiency in your area.

Snakebites31,32,33,34,35,36

Venomous snakebites are not common, but when they occur, should be treated seriously and immediately. A snake can bite several times, so if you notice a snakebite, look for others. Snake venom varies by species, and the severity of a bite can also be influenced by the size, age, and the number of bites. Most venoms can impair blood clotting and damage the heart, while some others contain neurotoxins. Signs of snakebite may include:

  • Swelling at site
  • Pain
  • Heat at site
  • Bleeding
  • Salivation
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Lameness
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Necrosis
  • Staggering
  • Bleeding from eyes, ears, or nose
  • Death

Seek veterinary care immediately if a resident is bitten by a venomous snake. Do NOT try to suck the venom out or place a tourniquet. Keep the resident calm while seeking immediate veterinary care. Depending on the severity of the bit, treatments may include antivenin, pain medications, fluid therapy, wound treatment, tetanus vaccination, and antibiotics. Check out our Compassionate Wildlife Practices At Your Animal Sanctuary for some tips on how to dissuade snakes from your property.

Wood Stains And Paints37

Some wood stains and paints can be toxic to sheep. sheep may try to chew on painted surfaces and can become ill if the stain or paint is toxic. Try and purchase paints and stains that are specially made for barns and fencing and listed as animal or “livestock” friendly.

Jump to the main text source list here.

Foods That May Be Toxic To Sheep

Consider These Variables

You may see food on this list that you have fed to your residents without any apparent issue. That may be because some foods are toxic in higher amounts while others are toxic in small amounts or whether they are being consistently offered the food over a period of time. It can also depend on the individual. We all have sensitivities to different things. Just as there are dogs who have eaten chocolate and don’t show clinical or subclinical signs of poisoning, there are many dogs that weren’t so lucky. The amount that may cause one resident to become ill (or even die) may be different for another resident. Different breeds or species can also affect their sensitivity to a toxin. In addition to these considerations, certain plants, fruits, vegetables, and other foods listed below may contain varying amounts of the toxin. The toxicity in some fruits and vegetables may even depend on their ripeness, the amount of sun exposure, the temperature, and more! Below we have put together a list of foods that are known to contain some toxin that is potentially harmful to sheep. It is our hope that providing this information will help you provide the best care possible to your residents. When possible, we have researched scientific papers to provide solid sources and tried to give more details. However, it is not an exhaustive list and is not meant to replace veterinary advice.

If You Have The Slightest Doubt…
Just because something might not be listed here as a toxic food or substance for sheep, please do not take that to mean it’s safe to give them! Even normally non-toxic produce can cause health issues if given in large amounts. Check our Daily Diet, Supplement, & Treats For Sheep resource and see if it’s listed as a safe treat for sheep residents. If you aren’t positive that it will be safe for sheep, it’s best to avoid feeding it to them in order to be as safe as possible!

In addition to the above, we cover some foods that can be toxic to goats and foods that are often questioned in terms of toxicity but may be fairly benign.

Anything With Pesticides Or Herbicides: Most vegetables and fruits are sprayed with these chemicals, which, while considered “safe” in certain amounts, can certainly be a source of concern when feeding your residents treats. Organic produce is safe from these chemicals, but for those foods that have been sprayed, it is important to peel or scrub to remove any chance of ingestion to avoid ingestion of toxins. Prevent residents from accessing areas that have been sprayed to avoid poisoning.1,2,3

Avocado: The chemical, persin, that is present in avocado trees (bark, leaves, skin, pit, and even fruit to a lesser extent) is toxic to many species, including sheep.4,5,6,7 Sheep that have ingested persin could present with symptoms such as swelling under the jaw, salivation, mastitis, arrhythmias, rapid or abnormally deep breathing, open-mouthed breathing, heart failure, and death. Different varieties may contain more persin than other varieties. Guatemalan varieties are more commonly associated with poisonings and have higher amounts of persin than some other varieties, though other varieties can still be toxic.4,5

Bitter Almond Seeds And Leaves: Ruminants are more susceptible to cyanide, also known as prussic acid, poisoning than animals with a simple stomach.8,9 The leaves and seeds of bitter almond trees can cause cyanide poisoning in large enough amounts.8,9 While both fresh and wilted leaves contain cyanogenic glycosides, wilted leaves caused by frost, drought, or branches being recently cut are the main source of concern with poisoning.10 Seeds also contain a cryogenic glycoside that can be toxic. While the almonds we are generally most familiar with, sweet almonds may contain a small amount of cyanide, bitter almonds contain significantly more.11 The nuts you find at the store are generally sweet almonds that have been processed. Some symptoms of cyanide poisoning include convulsions, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, salivation, lethargy, depression, rapid or abnormal pulse, high body temperature, labored breathing, uncoordinated, jerky movements, head pressing, collapse, coma, and death.8,9,10,12 A classic sign of cyanide poisoning that distinguishes it from nitrite poisoning is bright, cherry-colored blood.8,9,12 Alternatively, individuals suffering from nitrate poisoning may have dark brown colored blood.8

Brassicas: While many sheep nibble on brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, brussels sprouts, mustards, and rape and are just fine, brassicas do have the potential to cause health issues in sheep. 13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22 It is often tolerated in certain amounts in sheep and it is a common agricultural practice to use certain brassica crops as fodder.13,15,18 However, there have been documented reports and studies of different kinds of brassicas causing toxicity issues in sheep.

Turnip leaves and roots contain oxalates that can cause red blood cells to break down and kidney damage and central nervous system issues, such as paralysis, if the amount they consume isn’t carefully managed.20

Lambs eating rape or kale can develop photosensitivity called “rape scald”. Sheep with white heads and faces are at particular risk of developing swollen ears and head and blisters and scabs. The limbs may be affected as well.13,20,21

Feeding lambs kale and rape can result in poor growth in smaller quantities and anemia, red urine, and death when fed larger quantities, depending on the levels of SCMO (S-methylcysteine sulfoxide).21

Ewes and lambs are susceptible to glucosinolates in brassicas that may interfere with their thyroids and cause goiters.21

Brassicas have a good amount of sulfur and molybdenum which can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb copper if sheep consume them for a prolonged period.20
Lambs fed fresh, lush brassicas could develop clostridial enterotoxaemia. However, there are vaccinations that can prevent this.22

Cabbage has been shown to cause hypothyroidism and goiters in pregnant ewes and lambs. 13,17

Large amounts of brassicas may cause polioencephalomalacia (PEM), a neurological disease with clinical symptoms of head pressing, convulsions, blindness, circling, loss of coordination, recumbency, involuntary eye movement.14


Toxicosis can be chronic, developing over a period of time while being fed brassicas or acute, developing quickly after unmanaged access or excessive amounts being consumed.12,16 Use caution when offering brassicas to sheep residents. Treats are unlikely to cause issues and larger amounts may be okay for some but not others. Play it safe and dole out brassicas with care.

Cassava: Cassava has the potential to cause cyanide poisoning. Ruminants are more susceptible to cyanide poisoning than monogastric animals.23 In many regions, cassava is an important part of the diet for humans and, in an agricultural context, animals.23,24,25,26 Different species of animals exploited in agriculture are sometimes given a diet that consists, in part, of cassava (tuber, leaves, peels) that has been processed but is also sometimes fed fresh.24,25,26 There are a number of ways to process cassava that affects the amount of HCN including heating, drying, fermenting, chopping, grating, peeling, soaking, boiling, grinding, and ensiling.24,25,26 According to some studies, fresh peels appear to contain the highest levels of toxin.24 Cyanide poisoning through the ingestion of unprocessed or improperly processed cassava can result in acute or chronic poisoning. The type of cassava fed, the amount of consumption, the frequency of consumption, and whether there had been a gradual increase in consumption, can all be factors in the potential poisoning (or not) in sheep. Some symptoms of cyanide poisoning include impaired growth (in chronic cases), convulsions, lack of coordination, restlessness, muscle weakness, salivation, lethargy, depression, rapid or abnormal pulse, high body temperature, labored breathing, uncoordinated, jerky movements, collapse, coma, and death.8,9,10,26. A classic sign of cyanide poisoning that distinguishes it from nitrite poisoning is bright, cherry-colored blood.9,10 Take extreme care when considering feeding cassava products to goat residents, especially if you are not fully familiar with the risks and the proper ways to process cassava. Always speak to your veterinarian first.

Cherry Leaves: The leaves, as well as the pits, of cherry trees, can cause cyanide/prussic acid poisoning.8,9,10,27,28,29 Ruminants are especially susceptible to cyanide poisoning through the ingestion of plants as the toxin is released during fermentation in the rumen and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.9,10,28,29 Both fresh and wilted leaves can be a source of poisoning, though wilted leaves, especially those after a frost, are considered especially dangerous (There are reports of fresh leaves being eaten without incident but better safe than sorry.).10,28 Living spaces should be free of cherry trees and leaves or pits shouldn’t be fed. Some symptoms of cyanide poisoning include convulsions, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, salivation, lethargy, depression, rapid or abnormal pulse, high body temperature, labored breathing, uncoordinated, jerky movements, head pressing, collapse, coma, and death.8,9,10,23 A classic sign of cyanide poisoning that distinguishes it from nitrite poisoning is bright, cherry-colored blood.8

Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine which has been shown to be toxic in a number of species.30,31,32,33 While concentrations of the toxin theobromine are fairly lower in many chocolate products, the darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains.30,31,32 Cocoa bean shells and other chocolate byproducts are sometimes used as supplementation to diets for a number of farmed animal species.30,31,32 Depending on the amount of theobromine (and caffeine) contained in the waste/byproduct, the type of cocoa/chocolate product (husks, meal, confectionary waste), the percentage of waste/byproduct is included in the overall diet, and even the age of the individual, the diet may prove to be “acceptable” in an agricultural context. Avoiding chocolate shouldn’t be difficult as there are many other more appropriate treats for sheep residents.

Corn Stalks: Corn stalks can contain nitrates (like many plants) but are more likely to be the cause of nitrite poisoning than many other plants though certain plants like sorghum and sudangrass are particularly high risk.34 (Nitrates turn to nitrite through a physiological process, hence nitr-ite poisoning is caused by cornstalks high in nitr-ates.). Stalks of corn contain the highest levels of nitrates in the plant, though the leaves also contain nitrates, as well as the grain itself, just in lower amounts.34 It is a good idea to find out if plants in your region have a high risk of accumulating unhealthy levels of nitrates. Talking to your local extension office can be helpful. Nitrite poisoning is a higher risk if a resident has ingested cornstalks or leaves after they have wilted, which can happen after a bout of cold weather.34 Younger plants generally also have higher concentrations.34 Symptoms of nitrate poisoning may include salivation, staggering, dizziness, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, muscle tremors, weakness, frequent urination, bloat, a bluish tinge to the skin, chocolate brown blood, and death.35,36

Fruit Pits: Fruits with pits/stones (such as peaches, apricots, cherries, and plums) are often fine to offer to your sheep residents as treats, so long as the pits have been removed. In addition to the risk of larger whole fruits and pits becoming lodged in the digestive tract, the pits contain cyanogenetic glycosides, which can be toxic.8,9,10,23,27 Additionally, while cherry leaves are infamous for causing cyanide poisoning, the ingestion of the leaves of other stone fruits should be avoided as well until there is more information about their potential toxicity risks, especially after a cold shock in the weather or drought.8,10 Ingestion of these, especially cracked and broken bits of seeds and pits that release cyanide, can cause Some symptoms of cyanide poisoning include convulsions, lack of coordination, muscle weakness, salivation, lethargy, depression, rapid or abnormal pulse, high body temperature, labored breathing, uncoordinated, jerky movements, head pressing, collapse, coma, and death.8,9,10,23,27 A classic sign of cyanide poisoning that distinguishes it from nitrite poisoning is bright, cherry-colored blood.8

Green Potatoes: Green potatoes (and potato vines), particularly the skins and sprouts “eyes”, contain solanine, which can be poisonous to ruminants.38,39,40,41 If fed raw and whole, there is also a risk of choking and associated bloat.39,42 Over ingestion can also cause bloat issues if a large amount of raw potatoes is consumed quickly.39,42 It can cause serious illness and even death in high enough amounts. Symptoms may include dilated pupils, weakness, trembling, staggering, lack of coordination, depression, recumbency, salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, gastric distress, respiratory distress, coma, and death from suffocation.38,39,40,42 The most solanine is found just under the skin, so potato peels are best avoided entirely.39,43 Potatoes that have been in the sun will have increased solanine.41,42,43 Potatoes also contain chaconine, another chemical that can be toxic to ruminants.39 Solanine is heat stable, meaning just boiling won’t necessarily reduce the solanine, though it has been posited that the toxin leaches into the water from the potato (which should be disposed of), which would reduce the amount in the actual potato as would peeling before boiling.43 Frying is said to do a better job of breaking down solanine in potatoes but fried potatoes aren’t very healthy for goat residents.40,43 The level of toxic compounds can vary depending on environmental factors like climate and the type of soil it is grown in.40 If you decide to offer a bit of potato as a treat, to be safe be sure they are free from green colorations and sprouts “eyes” and are peeled, boiled, the water drained and they are rinsed before offering.

Onions: Sheep might be more resistant to onion poisoning than some other resident species but are still at risk. However, in large enough amounts under the right circumstances, sheep can still develop anemia.44,45,46,47 Symptoms of onion poisoning may include lack of appetite, staggering, pale mucous membranes, weakness, recumbency, collapse, high heart rate, high respiratory rate, and dark red urine.44,45,46,47 While it would generally require large amounts of onion consumption to produce these symptoms in sheep and even depend on how frequently and how quickly it was consumed, the amount that will affect individuals can vary and may not be known. Health, reproductive, and age status could all play a factor in the individual’s susceptibility.

Processed Human Food: Processed foods, especially those that are super greasy, salty, or sweet, while not necessarily toxic, aren’t the healthiest option and should be avoided or strictly limited as an occasional treat.

Rhubarb Leaves: Rhubarb contains high amounts of oxalic acid (in the leaves) which could be toxic to sheep if ingested. 39,48,49,50,51,52 The stalks contain significantly less oxalic acid than the leaves.48,49 Possible symptoms of poisoning may include stones in the urinary tract (a particular issue for male neutered sheep) vomiting, diarrhea, bloat, gastric distress, and hypocalcemia (low calcium levels in the blood) which can cause weakness, lethargy, lack of appetite, difficulty moving, and recumbency.39,48,49,50,51,52 Possible poisoning depends on a number of factors including whether the individual has gradually been eating rhubarb or other plants containing high amounts of oxalic acid, how quickly they have consumed them, and the overall amount they have consumed.50 Factors such as soil composition, weather, region, and type of rhubarb can all affect the levels of oxalic acid.50,52 Be sure sheep residents don’t have access to rhubarb plants and don’t give leaves as treats.

Salt: While it is important that goats have a healthy level of salt in their diet, there is such a thing as too much and this can cause serious health issues. Salt poisoning can have serious consequences and even be fatal in sheep.39,53,54 Prevention is key. Salt can result in sheep receiving a normal amount in the diet but a lack of access to adequate water or excessive amounts of salt in the actual diet.39,53,54 If you suspect salt poisoning, call your veterinarian immediately as soon as possible. Access to unrestricted amounts of water after deprivation can actually cause serious issues. Smaller amounts of water offered over a period of time are safer.39,54 Ask your vet what the appropriate amount and intervals are in case of salt poisoning. Sheep poisoned by salt may experience symptoms such as increased thirst, dehydration, salivation, dilated pupils, involuntary eye movement, excessive urination, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, diarrhea, bloat, depression, recumbency, lack of coordination, head pressing, seizures, muscle spasms (particularly causing the neck and back to arch, pulling their head back), staggering, collapse, coma, and death, in severe cases.39,53,54 Be sure sheep residents are getting the correct amount of salt in their diet as too much or too little can have serious consequences. Avoid feeding residents salty treats.

Visibly Moldy Or Rotten Foods: Moldy foods can contain mycotoxins that can cause serious health issues for ruminants.54,55,56,57 Different mycotoxin poisoning can result in different symptoms, ranging in severity. Sheep may be more resistant to certain mycotoxins than other species, but moldy food should still never be fed. Some of these symptoms can include diarrhea and ruminal stasis, lack of appetite, lack of interest in surroundings, convulsions, reproductive issues, and death.54,55,56,57

For more information on what you should feed sheep, check out our resource here.

While this list isn’t exhaustive, it can certainly help you keep resident sheep safe, healthy, and happy!

SOURCES: POTENTIALLY TOXIC FOODS

1. Herbicide Poisoning In Animals | Merck Veterinary Manual (Non-Compassionate Source)

2. Chapter 44 – Toxicity of Herbicides | Veterinary Toxicology (Non-Compassionate Source)

3. Suspected Poisoning Of Domestic Animals By Pesticides | Science Of The Total Environment

4. Guide To Poisonous Plants | Colorado State University (Non-Compassionate Source)

5. Avocado Toxicosis In Animals | The Merck Veterinary Manual

6. Cardiomyopathy Caused By Avocado (Persea Americana Mill) Leaves | Journal Of South African Veterinary Association (Non-Compassionate Source)  

7. Food Hazards | Concepts And Applications In Veterinary Toxicology (Non-Compassionate Source)  

8. Review On Cyanide Poisoning In Ruminants | Journal Of Biology, Agriculture, And Healthcare (Non-Compassionate Source)  

9. Prussic Acid Poisoning In Livestock | Washington State University Extension (Non-Compassionate Source)

10. Prussic Acid Poisoning Potential In Frosted Forages | Iowa State University (Non-Compassionate Source) 

11. Potential Toxic Levels Of Cyanide In Almonds (Prunus Amygdalus), Apricot Kernels (Prunus Armeniaca), And Almond Syrup | ISRN Toxicology (Non-Compassionate Source) 

12. Plant Poisoning Of Small Ruminants | American Association Of Bovine Practitioners Proceedings Of The Annual Conference (Click on the PDF button.) (Non-Compassionate Source)  

13. Forage-Related Cattle Disorders  Brassicas: Be Aware Of The Animal Health Risks | University Of Kentucky College Of Agriculture, Food And Environment Cooperative Extension Service (Non-Compassionate Source)  

14.  Polioencephalomalacia In Ruminants | The Merck Veterinary Manual (Non-Compassionate Source) 

15. Bioactive Organosulfur Phytochemicals In Brassica Oleracea Vegetables—A Review | Food And Chemical Toxicology  (Non-Compassionate Source) ??

16. Haemolytic Anaemia In Ruminants Fed Forage Brassicas: A Review | Veterinary Research (Non-Compassionate Source) 

17. The role of free radicals in brassica-induced Anaemia Of Sheep: An ESR Spin Trapping Study | Free Radicals Research Community  (Non-Compassionate Source) 

18. Voluntary Intake, Health And Performance Of Lactating Ewes Fed On Turnips With Or Without Straw Supplement | Animal Science  (Non-Compassionate Source) 

19. Diseases Of The Hematologic, Immunologic, And Lymphatic Systems (Multisystem Diseases) | Sheep, Goat, And Cervid Medicine (Non-Compassionate Source) 

20. Plant Poisonings In Britain And Ireland | Diseases Of Sheep   (Non-Compassionate Source) 

21. Feeding Lambs On Rape And Kale | NADIS Animal Health Skills (Non-Compassionate Source)

22. Brassicas And Animal Health | The Vet Advisor (Non-Compassionate Source)

23.  Review On Cyanide Poisoning In Ruminants | Journal Of Biology, Agriculture And Healthcare (Non-Compassionate Source)

24.  Detoxification Of Cassava Products And Effects Of Residual Toxins On Consuming Animals | The Food And Agriculture Organization (FAO) (Non-Compassionate Source)

25. A Review Of Ruminant Responses To Cassava-Based Diets | Cassava as Livestock Feed in Africa (Non-Compassionate Source)

26. Experimental Poisoning By Cassava Wastewater In Sheep | Livestock Diseases (Contains Pictures Of Sick Sheep) (Non-Compassionate Source)

27. Prunus Spp. Intoxication In Ruminants: A Case In A Goat And Diagnosis By Identification Of Leaf Fragments In Rumen Contents | Journal Of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation (Non-Compassionate Source)

28. Toxic Plants and Small Ruminants: Wild Cherry | Ohio State University, College Of Food Agriculture, And Environmental Sciences  (Non-Compassionate Source)

29. Prunus Poisoning In Horses And Other Livestock | Ontario Ministry Of Agriculture, Food, And Rural Affairs  (Non-Compassionate Source)

30. Theobromine Toxicity And Remediation Of Cocoa By-Products: An Overview | Journal Of Biological Sciences (Non-Compassionate Source)

31. The Effects of Chocolate and Chocolate by-product Consumption on Wild and Domestic Animals | Chocolate In Health And Nutrition (Non-Compassionate Source)  

32. Theobromine As Undesirable Substances In Animal Feed: Scientific Opinion Of The Panel On Contaminants In The Food Chain |  The EFSA Journal (Non-Compassionate Source)  

33. LC-QTOF/MS Untargeted Metabolomics Of Sheep Milk Under Cocoa Husks Enriched Diet | Dairy  (Non-Compassionate Source)  

34. Nitrate Toxicity In Livestock | Oklahoma State University Extension (Non-Compassionate Source)

35. Toxic Wasting Disorders in Sheep | Animals (Non-Compassionate Source)

36. Plant Poisoning of Small Ruminants | Colorado State University  (Non-Compassionate Source)

37. Toxic Plants and the Common Caprine | Cornell College Of Agriculture and Life Sciences

38. Steroid Alkaloids | Cornell College Of Agriculture And Life Sciences (Non-Compassionate Source)  

39. Bloat, Esophageal Disorders, Nightshade Toxicosis | Blackwell’s 5 Minute Veterinary Consult: Ruminants

40. Toxicants That Affect The Autonomic Nervous System (And, In Some Cases, Voluntary Nerves As Well) | Veterinarian Toxicology (Non-Compassionate Source)

41. Common Poisonous Plants | Cornell University Library (Non-Compassionate Source)

42. Cautions | University Of Nebraska-Lincoln, Institute Of Agriculture And Natural Resources (Non-Compassionate Source)  

43.  Natural Toxicants | The Food And Environment Research Agency

44. Onions | Colorado State University Guide To Poisonous Plants (Non-Compassionate Source)  

45. Heinz Body Anaemia Associated With Onion (Allium Cepa) Toxicosis In A Flock Of Sheep | Comparative Clinical Pathology (Non-Compassionate Source) 

46. Adaptation Of Pregnant Ewes To An Exclusive Onion Diet | Veterinary And Human Toxicology (Non-Compassionate Source)  

47. Rumen Bacteria Are Involved In The Onset Of Onion-Induced Hemolytic Anemia In Sheep | Journal Of Veterinary Medical Science  (Non-Compassionate Source)  

48. Plants Causing Kidney Failure | A Guide To Plant Poisoning Of Animals In North America

49. Plants Toxic To Livestock- Rhubarb | Cornell College Of Agriculture And Life Sciences

50.  Renal Toxicity | Veterinary Toxicology 

51.  Poisonous Vascular Plants | North Carolina State University  

52. Plant Poisoning Of Livestock In Vermont | UVM Extension (Non-Compassionate Source)

53. Salt Poisoning Outbreak In Sheep In The State Of Para | Pesquisa Veterinária Brasileira  (Non-Compassionate Source)  

54. Salt Poisoning | Veterinary Handbook Disease Finder (Non-Compassionate Source)

54. An Experimental Mycotoxicosis In Sheep And Goats Caused By Drechslera Campanulata, A Fungal Pathogen Of Green Oats | The Onderstepoort Journal Of Veterinary Research (Non-Compassionate Source)  

55. Aflatoxicosis | The Merck Veterinary Manual  (Non-Compassionate Source)  

56. Acute And Chronic Disease Associated With Naturally Occurring T-2 Mycotoxicosis In Sheep | Journal Of Comparative Pathology  (Non-Compassionate Source)  

57. Occurrence And Significance Of Mycotoxins In Forage Crops And Silage: A Review | Journal Of The Science Of Food And Agriculture (Non-Compassionate Source)  

Main Text Sources

1.Poisoning of Livestock by Plants | Ontario Ministry Of Agriculture, Food And Rural Affairs (Non-Compassionate Source)

2. Common Weeds Poisonous to Grazing Livestock | Ontario Ministry Of Agriculture, Food And Rural Affairs (Non-Compassionate Source)

3. Common Poisonous Plants | Ohio State University (Non-Compassionate Source)

4. Guide to Poisonous Plants | Colorado State University (Non-Compassionate Source)

5. Protect Your Horses And Livestock From Toxic Plants | Washington State Department Of Agriculture (Non-Compassionate Source)

6. Blue-Green Algae And Livestock | South Dakota State University (Non-Compassionate Source)

7. Sheep Mortalities Associated With The Blue Green Alga: Nodularia Spugima | Australian Veterinary Journal

8. Algal Poisoning Of Animals | The Merck Veterinary Manual (Non-Compassionate Source)

9. Blister Beetles | North Carolina State University Extension Service (Non-Compassionate Source)

10. Blister Beetles | University of Kentucky College of Agriculture  (Non-Compassionate Source)

11. Overview Of Copper Poisoning | Merck Manual Veterinary Manual

12. Copper Toxicity In Sheep And Goats (Proceedings) | DVM 360  (Non-Compassionate Source)

13. Copper Poisoning In Small Ruminants | Colorado State University (Non-Compassionate Source)

14. Grain Overload, Acidosis, Or Grain Poisoning In Stock | Department Of Primary Industries And Regional Development’s Agriculture And Food (Non-Compassionate Source)

15. Grain Overload In Ruminants | The Merck Veterinary Manual (Non-Compassionate Source)

16. Pathological Study Of Experimental Lead Poisoning In Sheep |Twenty-sixth Meeting of the European Society Of Veterinary Pathology

17. Effects Of Chronic Lead Exposure On Pregnant Sheep And Their Progeny | Vet Toxicology (Non-Compassionate Source)

18. Lead – An Emerging Threat To Livestock | Veterinary World (Non-Compassionate Source)

19. Is There Lead In Your Pasture? | The Horse

20. Mycotoxicoses In Domestic Animals | Vet 360 (Non-Compassionate Source)

21. An Experimental Mycotoxicosis In Sheep And Goats Caused By Drechslera Campanulata, A Fungal Pathogen Of Green Oats | The Onderstepoort Journal Of Veterinary Research (Non-Compassionate Source)  

22. Aflatoxicosis | The Merck Veterinary Manual  (Non-Compassionate Source)  

23. Acute And Chronic Disease Associated With Naturally Occurring T-2 Mycotoxicosis In Sheep | Journal Of Comparative Pathology  (Non-Compassionate Source)  

24. Occurrence And Significance Of Mycotoxins In Forage Crops And Silage: A Review | Journal Of The Science Of Food And Agriculture (Non-Compassionate Source)  

25. Herbicide Poisoning In Animals | Merck Veterinary Manual (Non-Compassionate Source)

26. Chapter 44 – Toxicity of Herbicides | Veterinary Toxicology (Non-Compassionate Source)

27. Suspected Poisoning Of Domestic Animals By Pesticides | Science Of The Total Environment

28. Accidental Selenium Toxicosis In Lambs | Canadian Veterinary Journal (Non-Compassionate Source)

29. Chapter 33 – Selenium | Veterinary Toxicology (Non-Compassionate Source)

30. Experimental Acute Selenium Intoxication In Lambs | Journal Of Comparative Pathology (Non-Compassionate Source)

31. Toxin Topic: Snakebites And Horses | The Horse (Non-Compassionate Source)

32. Snakebite In Sheep | Veterinary And Human Toxicology (Non-Compassionate Source)

33. First clinical experiences with specific sheep Fab fragments in snake bite. Report of a multicentre study of Vipera berus envenoming | Journal Of Internal Medicine (Non-Compassionate Source)

34. What Is The Impact Of Snakebite Envenoming On Domestic Animals? A Nation-Wide Community-Based Study In Nepal And Cameroon | Toxicon: X (Non-Compassionate Source)

35. Snakebite in domestic animals: First global scoping review | Preventative Veterinary Medicine

36. Clinical and Pathological Observations Associated with Snake Envenomation in Two Sheep | Acta Scientiae Veterinariae (Non-Compassionate Source)

37. Animal-Friendly Barn And Fence Paint For Horse Stalls | Stuff For Pet

Non-Compassionate Source?

If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

Updated on December 24, 2021

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