As a new horse owner, you’re probably still figuring out what to feed your horse. If you want your horse to live a long, happy, and healthy life, creating a balanced diet plan for it will do the trick. Some foods can be super healthy for your horse, while others may be unhealthy or even toxic. But can horses eat tomatoes? Continue reading to learn more!
Should Your Horse Eat Tomatoes?
The short answer is no; you shouldn’t feed your horse tomatoes. Tomatoes are toxic to horses when eaten in large enough quantities.
However, the good news is that horses don’t really like tomatoes anyway. So even if you have a garden with some tomato plants, your horse won’t likely attempt to eat any of them.
Nevertheless, it’s still possible for your horse to eat some tomatoes from your farm, so it’d be best to keep your horse away from them.
Why Are Tomatoes Toxic to Horses?
There are several substances in tomatoes that cause toxic effects in horses, which include:
Hyoscyamine is a toxin that decreases saliva production, limits intestinal movement, and even disables salivary glands when ingested by horses.
Saliva is essential for your horse’s digestive system. Without it, it won’t function properly, and swallowing will become challenging.
Atropine hinders your horse’s digestive tract mobility, causing complications like diarrhea, constipation, and colic.
The size of the digestive tract in horses plays a significant role here since it can potentially cause serious bloating.
This toxin is present in the green parts of the tomato plant. It causes indigestion and throat swelling. It also delays the digestive tract’s motility.
Since solanine is an alkaloid, alkaloid poisoning is also highly likely when your horse eats tomatoes. The toxins are present more densely in the green parts, but they’re detectable in the fruit, too.
Can Horses Eat Tomato Leaves?
Tomato leaves are worse for your horses than the tomato itself. This is because these leaves contain even higher concentrations of solanine than the fruit. So, if you’re growing tomatoes anywhere near the house, make sure that your horse can’t access them.
Symptoms of Tomato Poisoning In Horses
If you’ve fed your horse tomatoes or suspect that it might’ve eaten some by accident, you should be aware of the signs of tomato poisoning. These include:
- Extra saliva production
- Dilated pupils
- Gastrointestinal unrest
- Inability to stand properly
- Loss of balance
If you notice some or all of these symptoms in your horse, take it to the vet immediately. And remember, the longer you wait, the worse the symptoms will be, so don’t hesitate to act quickly.
The vet will probably request a urine test, blood test, or even both. This is necessary to diagnose the condition accurately to give the best treatment to your pet horse.
In case of alkaloid poisoning, vets recommend neostigmine, a drug that cancels out the depressive effects of tomato poisoning.
Some vets may also opt for activated charcoal that’s given orally to your horse. It’ll get rid of the poisons in your horse’s digestive system before they’re absorbed.
Can Tomatoes Kill Horses?
Yes, the right amount of tomatoes can kill your horse. According to the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, anywhere from 1 to 10 pounds of tomatoes should be enough for your horse to bite the dust. So, you should take great care if there are any tomatoes near your horse.
Not All Horses Get Sick From Eating Tomatoes
Despite its toxic nature to horses, your horse might be immune to tomato poisoning. Some horse owners actually feed their horses one ripened tomato every now and then without noticing any adverse side effects.
Nevertheless, tomato poisoning can be lethal, so it’d be better to avoid feeding your horse tomatoes altogether just to be on the safe side.
Remember That Horses Can’t Vomit!
Unlike other animal species, horses can’t vomit. This means that once a harmful substance enters a horse’s system, there’s no way for it to get out of its body. The poor horse will just let the food circulate through its digestive system, which will lead to adverse health effects.
The most obvious way to prevent tomato poisoning in your horse is to keep tomatoes and tomato plants away from them.
Tomato is a part of the nightshade family, a family of flowering plants that include potatoes, aubergine, bell pepper, and belladonna. If there are any plants from the nightshade family around the perimeter of the house, the safest choice here is to get rid of them. This is because almost all of them contain harmful toxins to your horse.
However, keep in mind that removing the plants isn’t enough as the roots may just regrow the plants after a while. So, it’s recommended that you keep checking for a while to ensure that the tomato plants are entirely gone.
Of course, you can also cover the area around the nightshade family plants with high fences or other barriers that your horse can’t get through.
What About Cherry Tomatoes?
Cherry tomatoes contain the same toxins found in tomatoes, so your horse shouldn’t eat these either. However, since cherry tomatoes are much smaller than tomatoes, it’ll probably require more than one or two cherry tomatoes for the toxic effects to kick in.
What Fruits Are Bad for Horses?
Besides tomatoes, there are other fruits that your horse shouldn’t consume. Fruits that contain stones, such as whole peaches, cherries, and avocados, are particularly dangerous since your horse might choke when it eats them. However, it’d be safe to let your horse eat them after you remove the stones.
Other fruits that are toxic to horses include persimmons, rhubarb, and avocados.
What Fruits Can Horses Eat?
Here are some of the fruits that are safe for your horse to eat in controlled portions:
Even though these fruits are safe to be eaten by your horse, you should still take care of the quantities provided to your pet. Any excess amounts may subject your horse to many digestive illnesses, such as colic.
Also, it’s important to note that all fruits need to be cleaned thoroughly before your horse consumes them.
Tips to Improve Your Horse’s Nutrition
Making sure that your horse gets all the essential nutrients it needs is important for its health. Here are some tips for maintaining a balanced diet for your horse:
Limit Your Horse’s Grain Intake
On average, a horse shouldn’t consume more than 11 pounds of grains per day to reduce the risk of developing colic.
Avoid Making Significant Changes to Your Horse’s Diet Suddenly
Making abrupt changes to your horse’s diet may cause it to react in unexpected ways. If your horse is used to a particular diet regime, and it’s been like that for a long time, don’t try to add or remove foods collectively. Introduce new foods gradually and in moderation.
Increase Your Horse’s Forage Portions
Forage should make up at least 50% of your horse’s diet. This translates to around 11-16 pounds of hay. Forage is full of nutrients which include vitamins, minerals, and protein. Also, you shouldn’t try to replace forage with other food types to prevent your horse from developing serious illnesses.
Provide Access to Clean and Fresh Water Round the Clock
Hydration is essential for your horse’s body functions. Digestion will be challenging without water, bowel movement will suffer, and your horse’s energy levels will decrease dramatically.
Match the Food Quantities to the Amount of Work Your Horse Does
If your horse moves for hours daily, it’ll probably need more calories than an idle horse that spends most of the time in the stable.
Consider Adding Vitamins to Your Horse’s Diet
Vitamins are essential for your horse’s bone and teeth development, concentration, digestion, energy, cardiovascular health, and liver functions. So include them in your horse’s diet, either through whole food, supplements, or a combination.
Adjust the Diet Based on Your Horse’s Life Changes and Stress Levels
Just like humans, horses may go through periods of distress and changes. It’s important to keep track of these changes and talk with the vet about the necessary diet adjustments.
Ensure That Your Horse’s Diet Contains Enough Minerals
Minerals are essential for your horse’s health. They aid its digestive system and almost all other body functions.
Long story short, you shouldn’t feed your horse tomatoes because they contain toxic substances. And while some horses can eat a ripened tomato occasionally without getting sick from it, it’s not really worth the risk.