WHAT ARE IONOPHORES ?

WHAT ARE IONOPHORES ?

Ionophores are a class of antibiotic-like compounds that are used in the beef and poultry industries to control coccidiosis (an intestinal parasitic disease), decrease the incidence of bloat and improve weight gain in cattle. Ionophores currently used in Australia and New Zealand include lasalocid, maduramicin, monensin, narasin, salinomycin and semduramicin. They are marketed as finished feed products (which generally have low concentrations of active ingredient), high dose sustained release capsules and concentrates (formulated as powders, grains and pellets) intended for mixing into finished feeds. The Animal Poisons Helpline is occasionally contacted about dogs, cats and horses that have been poisoned following accidental ingestion of these products.

The risk of poisoning is highly dependent on the animal species involved, the amount ingested and the duration of exposure. Following ingestion, dogs and cats can develop weakness, lethargy and unsteadiness on their feet. In severe cases, affected animals may become paralysed which can affect their respiratory muscles and ability to breathe. Without appropriate treatment, this can result in death. Horses that ingest toxic amounts of ionophores may become sweaty, be unwilling to eat and urinate excessively. As signs progress, they can develop an elevated temperature, become stiff and be unsteady on their feet. In severe cases, poisoning can result in changes to the heart rhythm and a drop in blood pressure.

To prevent poisoning, ensure that dogs, cats and horses do not have any access to feed preparations that are intended for cattle, small ruminants or poultry. Ensure these products are stored away from kibble. Feed bag labels should be read carefully, as the ionophore additive (when present) should be evident on the label of the product.

The Animal Poisons Helpline provides free advice to pet owners in Australia and New Zealand and can be reached on ☎️ 1300 869 738 (AU) or 0800 869 738 (NZ). If you are a member of a veterinary team in Australia or New Zealand, you can join the Animal Poisons Centre For Vets Facebook group which is regularly updated with toxicology tidbits and poisoning trends. We thank the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development for supporting this post.