Cyanide Poisoning

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Cyanide Poisoning: 

Cyanide Poisoning VetMed 647 Mary C. Smith


Cyanide rapid acting toxin (used for suicide) combined with sugar as cyanogenic glycoside localized in vacuoles in leaves and seeds enzymes that separate CN from sugar are in the cytosol wilting or crushing plant releases CN


beta glycosidase + maceration → glucose + aglycone aglycone + hydroxynitrile lyase → HCN + aldehyde


Cyanide more than 1000 plant species variety of CN glycosides – don’t learn names or structures: cherries prunasin and amygdalin sorghum dhurrin flax linamarin white clover lotaustralin arrowgrass triglochinin

Potential CN glycoside toxicity: 

Potential CN glycoside toxicity concentration in plant, N in soil species of plant; breed crop for less CN stage of growth (young plants) hormone herbicides dry weather followed by rain low sunlight – glycosides may accumulate over night so highest toxicity in morning

Potential CN glycoside toxicity: 

Potential CN glycoside toxicity damage to plant – trampling, frosting amount eaten, rate of ingestion size and type of animal – ruminants most susceptible (enzymes more active at neutral pH, microbes release CN) food ingested with it

Detoxification of cyanide: 

Detoxification of cyanide endogenous thiosulfate catalyzed by rhodanese thiocyanate forms (thiocyanates from chronic low level exposure produce goiter in adult or fetus) excreted in urine

Other sources of cyanide: 

Other sources of cyanide electroplating or cleaning metals soil sterilant rodenticides


Cyanide CN combines with cytochrome oxidase system ties up ferric iron so can no longer transport oxygen into cells histotoxic anoxia bright red blood with lots of oxygen

Clinical signs: 

Clinical signs found dead (15 min) excited, generalized muscle tremors rapid breathing, dyspnea increased salivation and lachrymation involuntary urination and defecation

Clinical signs: 

Clinical signs down, gasping for breath clonic convulsions dilated pupils mucous membranes bright pink blood very bright red Rarely time to treat

Necropsy of acute case: 

Necropsy of acute case bright red blood blood slow to clot or does not clot hemorrhage from terminal struggling bitter almond odor to ingesta


Diagnosis history of exposure, clinical signs confirm by testing blood, rumen content, liver, muscle for CN test forage for CN freeze sample, submit frozen preserve in 1-3% mercuric chloride if can’t freeze


Picric acid test


Treatment sodium nitrite 1% solution 22 mg/kg IV sodium thiosulfate 3% solution 660 mg/kg IV nitrite converts hemoglobin to methemoglobin – competes with cytochrome oxidase for cyanide ion sodium thiosulfate orally (up to 1 #)


Prevention control field fertilization keep off dangerous crops if frost, too young, crop damage sorghum > 2 feet high safer safer in silage or hay don’t leave cherry branches in pasture

Cyanide containing plants: 

Cyanide containing plants Prunus - cherry Malus - apple Sorghum spp – sorghum, Johnson grass Triglochin - arrowgrass Linum - flax

Choke cherry – Prunus virginiana: 

Choke cherry – Prunus virginiana serrated leaf shiny upper surface panicle of flowers shrub seed but not flesh toxic

Black cherry – Prunus serotina: 

Black cherry – Prunus serotina longer leaf, brown fuzz along midrib panicle of flowers, black fruit young tree: shiny bark with horizontal lines older tree: potato chip bark

Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome: 

Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome Kentucky 2001 - losses of $336 million cherry trees on pastures where mares resorbing or aborting fetuses not associated with cyanide, but with tent caterpillars on the cherry trees caterpillar bristles (setae) carried bacteria into intestinal mucosa - septicemia


Eastern tent caterpillar nests

Apples - Malus: 

Apples - Malus seeds contain CN choke and bloat in cattle choke in horses drunken cattle from fermentation

Milo, etc. - Sorghum vulgare: 

Milo, etc. - Sorghum vulgare resemble corn except top different – both male and female flowers here safe when mature raised for silage or grazing or grain Sudan grass is an annual up to 5 feet tall; immature plant more toxic


Grain sorghum


Forage sorghums and Sudan grass

Johnson grass - Sorghum halepense: 

Johnson grass - Sorghum halepense similar to grain sorghums open panicle of seeds introduced as a crop but now considered to be a weed

Equine sorghum cystitis: 

Equine sorghum cystitis ataxic syndrome if graze hybrid Sudan or sorghum pasture dribble urine, scald inside of hind legs posterior ataxia; cyanide produces myelomalacia of lower spinal cord pregnant mares abort foals with arthrogryposis and ankylosis

Arrowgrass - Triglochin : 

Arrowgrass - Triglochin round stem erect spike of seeds alkaline soil brackish marshes

Flax - Linum: 

Flax - Linum raised as crop fiber (flax) and oil (linseed oil) linseed meal can have CN if made from immature seeds blue flower round seeds

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