Xanthoparmelia chlorochroa, commonly called tumbleweed lichen, is found throughout the Rocky Mountain region. This particular species of lichen was incriminated in the poisoning of cattle and sheep in Wyoming during the 1930s. More than 70 years elapsed before another case was reported. There is virtually no information in the veterinary literature regarding toxicity of this lichen. This report describes X. chlorochroa poisoning in domestic sheep fed lichen collected from different locales and at different times of the year. Affected animals voided red urine and displayed incoordination. A transient spike in serum creatine kinase activity occurred in all ewes during the course of the feeding trial. Histologically, necrosis of a few individual appendicular skeletal myocytes was observed in 1 ewe, but grossly discernible myonecrosis was absent. The severity of clinical signs varied depending on the location and/or time of year the lichen was collected, indicating that toxicity of the lichen may be influenced by environmental conditions. Results demonstrate that domestic sheep are a useful model for further investigation of X. chlorochroa intoxication. The current study should act as a starting point for elucidating the pathogenesis of X. chlorochroa poisoning and aid in the development of a diagnostic assay to confirm lichen poisoning.
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