We love them fried, baked or boiled as they are nutritious and delicious but can horses eat potatoes? Can such an apparently harmless legume pose threats to horses? In a previous article we discussed tomatoes and why those are poisonous to horses and as it turns out, potatoes are a part of the same family of foods called nightshade.
This substance is found in many vegetables and plants like tomatoes or potatoes and it doesn’t affect us humans because the cooking of the potatoes breaks it down. This substance is poisonous and there can be quite a lot of it in potatoes so this is a reason why they aren’t recommended even as treats for your horse. The green parts and all the leaves have most of this substance but there can still be traces in the parts that we eat.
If a horse eats a large quantity of raw potatoes the symptoms of solanine poisoning might start to appear and the substance affects the digestive and nervous system. The signs are excitability at first, followed by depression, a decreased heart and respiratory rate, gastric problems like colic, problems with coordination and a general weakness in the muscles. If the quantity ingested is high enough convulsions might appear and they can even get into cardiac arrest, putting their life in danger.
So if we know that the cooking process takes care of the solanine threat then you might ask what is the issue with cooked potatoes? Chips are something most of us enjoy since they are quite tasty and make for a great snack but how do they affect horses?
If they are commercially bought they probably have many preservatives in them to keep them fresh for a long time and those can impact a horse’s digestive system. They also have a very large quantity of salt and that can be harmful for them.
My Horse Ate Potatoes! What Now?
A horse is much larger and hardier than a human being so it will take a very large quantity of a substance to do them harm. So the first thing you should do is try to assess how much they managed to eat. If it was just a few chips then they will probably be fine, maybe just get a mild indigestion.
But if they ate more and they are showing symptoms of an upset stomach or some of the ones mentioned above then contacting a veterinarian as soon as possible is crucial since they have to be administered neostigmine and activated charcoal.
Horses rarely eat potatoes on their own as it isn’t tasty to them but when they are eating some grass if there is a species of nightshade there as well they won’t be too picky. This means that you should find out about the plants that grow where they spend their time and try to remove those that can be dangerous.
Potatoes contain solanine and it is poisonous to horses so you should keep potatoes away from your horse, peels especially.