Dog Hobble (Leucothoe fontanesiana)

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This page contains information regarding a plant "known to be poisonous" to goats as well as other animals. This information was researched from various resources. Please note, that the author is not a botanist or specialist regarding plants. This information is posted for your reference and comparison purposes only.
Information and photos provided courtesy of Elizabeth Childers -

Dog Hobble - Click for a full size image Dog Hobble - Click for a full size image Dog Hobble - Click for a full size image Dog Hobble - Click for a full size image

I got my first goats on Tuesday, May 2. I knew most of the plants in my pen, and one of them was dog hobble. I asked a number of email lists about the plant and no one seemed to know what it was or weather or not it was poisonous. I let them out of the barn on Friday for their first exploration of their new home. On Saturday, I thought I was going to loose them.

Two of my three goats were grinding their teeth, and having problems standing. The doeling, Rumba, was stomping her feet, and leaning against her mama, Samba. Samba was having problems holding up her head, and leaning into her kid. Samba was also urinating frequently and each time was releasing less and less until, about an hour later, she was straining, but nothing was coming out. The barn looked as though the exorcist had been there. There were green streaks of cud everywhere. Samba and Rumba, never ran a fever or had diarrhea. Rumba also recovered much more quickly than her mama.

I had no clue as to what it could have been. I called everyone I knew and the only culprit that I could find was Dog Hobble.

Dog Hobble, Leucothoe fontanesiana, is a beautiful plant that grows in the Eastern Mountains on the north side of a mountain. According to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Dog Hobble is non-indigenous and non-invasive. It is found in the South Eastern US. It is used in many places as a landscape plant as it spreads rapidly, contrary to what the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens have stated about it, and has a beautiful mounding growth habit. It has long slender single branches that originate at the ground and grow in masses as though the trunk of a tree was buried, but the branches were still green and growing. It has leathery shiny leaves much like rhododendron, but much smaller and, like rhododendron, the underside of the leaves is an olive green color with visible pores.

The flower grows in pendulous racemes and looks exactly like a blueberry flower or a lily of the valley flower. The stems are reddish from the ground and greenish as you move upwards. When the young plants come out of the ground, or off a stem, it sprouts much like asparagus in that the leaves are tight against the sprout, which is a vibrant red clay color. The stems become hollow in older plants and develop a woody bark similar to rhododendron. It has shallow roots that, while the plant is young, are easily pulled from the ground. The plant propagates itself like rhododendrons do; where it touches the ground, it sprouts roots.

As I said before they grow in masses and a single mass, like in my goat pen, can be as large as.... well, a goat pen. It prefers damp rich soil, and low light. You can pretty well believe there will be some close by if you are in a well forested area, there is a stream or springs near by, and there is rhododendron in the same area as well.

Luckily I was able to find a vet willing to work with goats about an hour away. He suggested activated charcoal. He told me a good drench of charcoal is the most beneficial thing I could do. Activated charcoal will absorb all the toxins in the gut. About 3 hours later drench with 6 to 8 ounces of mineral or vegetable oil in a effort to coat the gut. Donít do them simultaneously as the charcoal will absorb the oil and they will negate each other.

On the second day, Rumba was fine. Samba was still grinding her teeth and looking very sick. I gave her Irene Ramsayís remedy for rhododendron poisoning.

On the third day, she still had not eaten anything. I gave her a 6ml dose of Vitamin B12, and 10 grams of Probios. After that, it was another 2 days before Samba started grazing again, and another day before she showed any interest at all in her grain. It wasnít until Thursday that she started to eat like her old self again.

Irene Ramsay sent me some great remedies in an email, that can be taken with you while packing. She suggests that you use the following recipe:

3 Tablespoons liquid rennet
3 Tablespoons Milk of Magnesia
1 Tablespoon brandy
Mix all together.
This is the adult dose!

For kids under 4 months give 1 Tablespoon each of rennet and milk of magnesia and 1 teaspoon brandy, for kids over 4 months give 2 Tablespoons of both liquid rennet and milk of magnesia and 1 tablespoon of brandy. Treat goatlings as adults.

Rennet is good for a variety of gastric ailments in goats, and it works even when it is well past its UseBy date. The action of the rennet is to neutralize the toxins from the rhododendron.

Milk of magnesia is useful for a number of stomach upsets in goats (as well as humans). Its action is twofold: it puts a lining on the gut, and it regulates the pulsing of the gut (peristalsis), which often gets out of kilter with poisoning or colic. The brandy works, but I haven't yet found out why. It is a fortified spirit so has a high alcohol percentage and you don't need much. Alternatively you can use sherry, which is a fortified wine. They are both made from grapes, and work better for medicinal purposes than spirits or wines made from grain or other substances.

It is usual for goats with rhododendron poisoning to vomit rather spectacularly, everything within a 20 foot radius is likely to be covered in green slime. For this reason it is difficult to drench them with an antidote because it is easy for things to go down the wrong hole and either drown the goat within minutes or cause inhalation pneumonia. That is why I like this recipe because the amounts are small, and you can take 15 minutes over the drenching, a ml or two at a time between sickies, if you have to.

One dose is usually sufficient. I've never heard of anyone having to give two doses, although if the goat did not show improvement within an hour after dosing one could consider a repeat.

It is important to keep the goat warm, but not in the sun, and out of the wind. Have a bucket of fresh warm water available for the animal to drink, and each time it gets fouled by vomit (which has stuck to the face hair) empty and refill it, otherwise the goat will just be drinking up more poison. A goat which is vomiting all over the place is getting rid of the toxins much more efficiently than one which is not, so vomiting is good.

Once the goat is feeling better, offer a mixture of yummies, a handful of various weeds like yarrow, cleavers, dock, prairie grass or twitch, some green pine needles, tree lucerne, willow, and some good plain hay or straw. Don't give much at a time as anything which is fouled will have to be thrown away, so why waste it by being over-generous?

Lorraine's Recipe for Rhododendron Poisoning.

Quantities do not need to be too exact.
ľ cup cooking oil
Ĺ cup strong/strong cold tea (6 to 8 tea bags removed) ["English" tea]
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
MIX ALL TOGETHER and drench the goat with it all.

How does this work?
Oil puts a lining on the stomach preventing more poison going into the system, tea is the antidote, and ginger relieves pain, baking soda helps bring up the gas.

I have also been told that Banamine is an excellent thing to give as it can help to detoxify the blood. This is information from a person who was not a vet, so donít know if that is true or not.

The key to curing this poisoning is to get to them as quickly as possible after ingestion of the plants. If caught early, charcoal and vegetable oil should be sufficient. It is also helpful if the goats vomit as much of the plant as possible.

Purina Mills

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