Details

Common Name
Vipers's bugloss, blueweed
Botanic Name
Echium vulgare
Plant Family
Boraginaceae
Habitat
Introduced and grown as an ornamental,it often escapes to become a weed in disturbed soils of waste areas, along roadsides and will invade meadows.
Animals Affected
Horses, cattle
Viper's-bugloss
Toxic Principle
Pyrrolizidine alkaloids(PA)are the primary toxins in the plant. The PA are cummulative in effect and cause severe liver fibrosis and eventual irreversible liver failure after several months.
Description
Erect biennial to 2 feet in height, with multiple branches arising from the root crown. The leaves are very hairy, becoming smaller towards the tip of the stems. Flowers are produced on an inflorecence that is coiled at first. Flower color varies from from white to purple to blue. It is a continuous bloomer all summer.
Musculoskeletal
Muscle atrophy due to severe weight loss
Treatment
There is no effective treatment for animals with terminal liver disease due to pyrrolizidine alkaloids as the liver changes are irreversible. Keeping the animal out the sun will relieve the photosensitization but not affect the underlying liver disease.
Nervous System
Severe depression, circling, aimless wandering, head pressing, incoordination and other abnormal behavior consistant with hepatic encephalopathy.
Integumentary System
Photosensitization develops as a result of severe liver disease. White skinned (non pigmented) areas become red, swollen, and painful before the skin dies and sloughs-off as if severely burned. Hairs especially in the dry plant can cause dermatitis when the plant is handled.Secondary photosensitization develops as a result of severe liver disease. White skinned (non pigmented) areas become red, swollen, and painful before the skin dies and sloughs-off as is severly burned.
Ocular System
Photophobia, tearing
Hepatic System
Jaundice, elevated serum liver enzymes and liver function tests.
Diagnosis
Elevated serum liver enzymes, decreased albumen, liver biopsy-megalocytosis, fibrosis and biliary hyperplasia. Animals exhibiting typical photosensitization without underlying liver disease are most likely to have primary photosensitization due to plants containing photoreactive pigments. Primary photsensitizing plants include St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum), buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum), and spring parsely (Cymopterus watsonii). The prognosis for animals with primary photosensitization is much better than with PA induced photosensitization, as they will recover once removed from the plants.
Vipers's bugloss (Echium vulgare)