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Objective—To describe the simple elimination kinetics of methyllycaconitine (MLA) and deltaline and evaluate the heart rate response in cattle following oral administration of larkspur.

Animals—5 healthy Angus steers that were habituated to metabolism crates.

Procedures—Tall larkspur (Delphinium barbeyi) in the early flowering stage was collected, dried, and ground. Each steer received a single dose of larkspur that was equivalent to 10.4 mg of MLA/kg and 11.0 mg of deltaline/kg via oral administration. Steers were housed in metabolism crates during a 96-hour period following larkspur administration; heart rate was monitored continuously, and blood samples were collected periodically for analysis of serum MLA and deltaline concentrations as well as assessment of pharmacokinetic parameters.

Results—No overt clinical signs of poisoning developed in any steer during the experiment. Mean ± SE heart rate reached a maximum of 79.0 ± 5.0 beats/min at 17 hours after larkspur administration. Serum MLA concentration was correlated directly with heart rate. Mean times to maximal serum concentration of MLA and deltaline were 8.8 ± 1.2 hours and 5.0 ± 0.6 hours, respectively. Mean elimination half-life values for MLA and deltaline were 20.5 ± 4.1 hours and 8.2 ± 0.6 hours, respectively.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Following larkspur administration in 5 healthy steers, maximum serum concentrations of MLA and deltaline were detected within 10 hours, and changes in serum MLA concentration and heart rate were correlated. Results indicated that cattle that have consumed larkspur will eliminate 99% of MLA and deltaline from serum within 144 hours.

Full access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research


Objective—To determine whether larkspur-derived N-(methylsuccinimido) anthranoyllycoctonine (MSAL)-type alkaloids alter heart rate and electrically evoked electromyographic (eEMG) response of the external anal sphincter (EAS) in cattle and whether these effects can be reversed by acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.

Animals—12 beef heifers and 4 cows.

Procedures—3 or 4 heifers were used in 1 or 2 of 7 dose-response experiments; heart rate and EAS eEMG response were assessed before and 24 hours after oral treatment with larkspur (doses equivalent to 0.5 to 15 mg of MSAL-type alkaloids/kg). In 3 subsequent experiments, 3 heifers (1 of which was replaced with another heifer in the control experiment) each received 10 mg of MSAL-type alkaloids/kg and were injected IV with physostigmine (0.04 mg/kg), neostigmine (0.04 mg/kg), or saline (0.9% NaCl) solution 24 hours later, prior to assessment. Additionally, EAS eEMG response was measured in 4 cows before and after epidural administration of 2% lidocaine hydrochloride.

Results—Larkspur-treated heifers developed dose-related increases in heart rate and decreases in EAS eEMG response. Twenty-four hours after administration of MSAL-type alkaloids, neostigmine decreased heart rate but did not affect eEMG response, whereas physostigmine did not affect heart rate but caused a 2-fold increase in eEMG response. In cows, epidural anesthesia did not alter eEMG response, suggesting that transdermal stimulation of the EAS pudendal innervation did not occur.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—In cattle, cardiac effects and muscle weakness or loss of EAS eEMG response induced by larkspur-derived MSAL-type alkaloids were reversed by neostigmine or physostigmine, respectively. Treatment with anticholinesterase inhibitors may alter the clinical effects of larkspur poisoning in cattle.

Full access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research