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Black oil sunflower seed ingestion associated with renal azotemia, gastroesophageal ulceration, and a high mortality rate in four alpacas and two llamas

Erica C. McKenzie BVMS, PhD, Juan C. Guerra DVM, John R. Middleton DVM, PhD, Dae Y. Kim DVM, PhD, Fred Williams III DVM, Teresa M. Garcia DVM, MS, and Duncan S. Russell BVMS
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  • From the Departments of Clinical Sciences (McKenzie, Guerra) and Biomedical Sciences (Garcia, Russell), Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331; and Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery (Middleton) and Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (Kim, Williams), College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211.

Abstract

CASE DESCRIPTION

4 alpacas and 2 llamas (11 months to 11 years old) from 2 properties were examined for lethargy (6/6), salivation and regurgitation (4/6), and recumbency (3/6). Signs developed approximately 48 to 72 hours after accidental access to black oil sunflower seeds.

CLINICAL FINDINGS

3 alpacas died suddenly prior to treatment and were necropsied. One llama survived, and 1 alpaca and 1 llama died after days of medical treatment. All 3 treated animals had systemic inflammatory signs including tachycardia, fever, and hematologic changes. Biochemical anomalies included azotemia, hyperglycemia, hyponatremia, hypochloremia, and hypoalbuminemia. Necropsy identified numerous sunflower seeds in the gastrointestinal tract of all 5 animals that died, with pulmonary congestion (5/5 animals), mild centrilobular vacuolar hepatic degeneration (4/5), and erosions of the esophagus (3/5) and first (3/5) and third (1/5) compartments of the forestomach. Renal tubular necrosis was found in the 2 animals that died on day 4 of treatment.

TREATMENT AND OUTCOME

One llama responded successfully to intensive medical management including supplemented IV fluid therapy, oral and partial parenteral nutrition, and administration of antimicrobials, furosemide, and insulin and was clinically normal with plasma biochemical analysis values within reference range 12 weeks later. Vitamin D, oxalates, heavy metals, and mycotoxins were excluded as the cause of clinical signs on the basis of screening of uneaten seeds and tissue samples and gastric content from the treated llama that died.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Inadvertent large volume black oil sunflower seed ingestion resulted in a high mortality rate in camelids. A specific toxic principle was not identified. Feeding this product to camelids is not recommended to avoid the risk of accidental overingestion and subsequent disease. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2021;259:406–414)

Abstract

CASE DESCRIPTION

4 alpacas and 2 llamas (11 months to 11 years old) from 2 properties were examined for lethargy (6/6), salivation and regurgitation (4/6), and recumbency (3/6). Signs developed approximately 48 to 72 hours after accidental access to black oil sunflower seeds.

CLINICAL FINDINGS

3 alpacas died suddenly prior to treatment and were necropsied. One llama survived, and 1 alpaca and 1 llama died after days of medical treatment. All 3 treated animals had systemic inflammatory signs including tachycardia, fever, and hematologic changes. Biochemical anomalies included azotemia, hyperglycemia, hyponatremia, hypochloremia, and hypoalbuminemia. Necropsy identified numerous sunflower seeds in the gastrointestinal tract of all 5 animals that died, with pulmonary congestion (5/5 animals), mild centrilobular vacuolar hepatic degeneration (4/5), and erosions of the esophagus (3/5) and first (3/5) and third (1/5) compartments of the forestomach. Renal tubular necrosis was found in the 2 animals that died on day 4 of treatment.

TREATMENT AND OUTCOME

One llama responded successfully to intensive medical management including supplemented IV fluid therapy, oral and partial parenteral nutrition, and administration of antimicrobials, furosemide, and insulin and was clinically normal with plasma biochemical analysis values within reference range 12 weeks later. Vitamin D, oxalates, heavy metals, and mycotoxins were excluded as the cause of clinical signs on the basis of screening of uneaten seeds and tissue samples and gastric content from the treated llama that died.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Inadvertent large volume black oil sunflower seed ingestion resulted in a high mortality rate in camelids. A specific toxic principle was not identified. Feeding this product to camelids is not recommended to avoid the risk of accidental overingestion and subsequent disease. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2021;259:406–414)

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to Dr. McKenzie (erica.mckenzie@oregonstate.edu).