Dr. Don Hoenig, state veterinarian, was not sure if he would ever get a lead
on what killed 10 horses from Searsport, Maine USA.
Monday afternoon, however, Hoenig heard from the University of Wisconsin
about tests on a manure sample from one of the dead animals. The sample was
collected two weeks ago during a necropsy performed at the University of Maine.
Monensin in manure
The results confirmed initial
theories that grain toxicity was likely to blame for the deaths of 10 horses
belonging to Kathy Hecht of Searsport. "They found a trace of monensin in the
manure," said Hoenig. Monensin is an antimicrobial feed additive commonly found
in cattle or poultry grain. The additive is potentially fatal to horses,
however, because it damages their hearts. "You wouldn't normally expect to see
any monensin in horse manure, because it shouldn't be there," said Hoenig.
The state's investigation into the deaths began
the weekend of Feb. 17-18, when Hecht contacted Sherburne because her horses
were dying one by one at her Mt. Ephraim Road residence. Because the horses died
in a cluster, the investigation pointed to grain toxicity. Botulism was another
possibility. Samples of feed that Hecht had on site at the time of the horses'
deaths were tested, but showed no traces of the toxin. That eliminated the
possibility that monensin was inadvertently added while the feed was being
processed at a mill, and suggesting to Hoenig that a well-meaning individual
might have fed the wrong grain to the horses.
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