Can Horses Eat Bread?

As a caring horse owner, it’s natural to be concerned about giving certain foods to your equine friends, considering their digestive system is fragile. Without proper care skills, some treats or snacks could make your horse sick, injured, or even lead to death.

In this post, we will focus on one of the commonly asked questions ” Can horses eat bread?”

The short answer — yes, but with caution.

You should give your horse small quantities of bread occasionally. Before you think of feeding this human food to your friend, keep in mind some equine will not want to have that snack.

Many horses will quickly welcome treats with a special appealing aroma, something which bread lacks. So, there’s a chance of them turning it down. But since bread is rather a category term, your ponies may find some varieties worth tasting.

If your equine doesn’t love bread, that’s fine. There are plenty of alternative treats to try.

Whatever type of bread you choose for your horse, make sure that this food does not become part of its regular diet. That’s because the nutrient composition won’t meet the significant health needs. As such, you may subject your horse to nutritional deficiencies or imbalances.

Keep reading to learn more about bread and horses.

Is bread toxic to horses?

Bread is not toxic. The digestive tract of horses can tolerate the typical nutrients used in making bread. There’s an unhealthy side to bread, though.

The problem with bread is that it is loaded with calories and starch. Sure, your horse needs calories for exercise, metabolism, growth, and other life functions. But bread doesn’t offer other significant nutrients for overall optimal health.

Besides carbohydrates, equine need an adequate supply of protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Unfortunately, your tall four-legged friend cannot get this from bread.

The high starch amount in bread can be a source of problems, and this usually starts in the small intestine. Generally, horses have a small capacity stomach. With limited capacity, horses may not digest starch effectively as humans would. So, large portions could spell danger on your equine because it cannot handle that.

Well, here are a few reasons why you may want to stay away from feeding more bread to your horses.

· Weight gain

Even though this snack may not be toxic, giving it to your horse regularly can increase the risk of adding on weight. If your horse is already overweight, you could only make things worse by supplying it with a high amount of calories. On the flip side, bread could help underweight horses to put on a desirable weight.

Otherwise, being obese can lead to a multitude of problems, such as joint strain, heat intolerance, and cardio issues.

Carrying extra weight puts excess stress on the joints, muscles, heart, lungs, and more. Exercising will become even more challenging.

When the joints are strained, the tendons, ligaments, and soft tissues also get subjected to an added level of stress. If not controlled in time, the soft tissues could get damaged.

Overweight horses have a problem maintaining proper body temperature, as the additional weight essentially serves as insulation. They tend to get too hot.

· Metabolic disorder

Horses that consume bread regularly are at the risk of developing insulin resistance if they become obese.

The amount of insulin the pancreas secrets depends on the horse’s body needs. An overweight horse can become less sensitive to insulin with time. When the liver, fat, and other interconnected cells fail to send proper signals, horses can produce far more insulin than they need. It is a natural response for the body to make up for deficiencies.

Unfortunately, this will be a never-ending cycle of insulin overproduction, which could be life-threatening.

Please keep in mind that some equine may not be obese but still have metabolic syndrome or disorder. Such horses are usually born that way.

You should not give bread to horses with metabolic syndrome, even as an occasional snack or treat. Otherwise, you can cause a spike in blood sugar levels and worsen their health.

· Colic or abdominal pain

Most of the digestion of horse feed occurs in the hindgut that consists of the cecum, large & small colon, and rectum. The undigested starch from the small intestine, which is part of the foregut, enters the cecum — where it is fermented.

Unfortunately, the fermentation of starch creates lactic acid. This will disrupt the pH levels and encourage the build of gases, leading to abdominal pain or colic symptoms.

The cecum walls have sac-like pouches with small ridges whose function is to slow food passage and increase the absorption rate. Food can stay in the fermentation vat for up to seven hours, translating to more suffering time for your equine.

If more bread passes into the cecum, an increased amount of acid could be produced and lead to excess gas build-up.

· Laminitis

Excessive consumption of dietary sugar and starch is linked to laminitis. The condition can occur in horses with imbalanced pH levels.

Laminitis causes the inflammation of soft tissues that attach the pedal bone to the hoof wall.

The horses can experience extreme pain. What’s worse, the pedal bone can become less stable or even separate and rotate within the hoof wall.

Ponies suffering from this condition tend to lie down more often and are reluctant to move. And even when they move, you’ll notice they frequently rock their weight back off the affected limbs.

· Exertional Rhabdomyolysis (ER)

Excessive bread consumption can also contribute to ER in the equine. It is a syndrome associated with muscle pain and cramping when exercising. The muscles over the loin and croup regions are often the most affected.

Horse owners may notice excessive sweating, rapid heart rate, unusual breathing, muscle stiffness, or tremors in the equine with ER episodes. Some horses may refuse to move. The color of urine may change in other horses. That’s because the damaged muscle tissues release myoglobin.

Can horses eat a loaf of bread?

Assuming you’ve tried giving bread to your tall four-legged friends, and they seem to like it. Now you’re probably wondering how much is too much bread for horses.

So, can horses eat a loaf of bread? Unfortunately, no! That would be way too much for their digestive tract.

To avoid the health complications we’ve discussed above, your equine should not eat more than two standard slices of bread from time to time.

Is it safe to feed bread to young horses?

Don’t give bread to colts or foals. The digestive system of young horses is still developing tolerance strength. As such, it may not handle what it wasn’t designed to digest. A diet high in starch mainly affects the bone development process, but it can cause other health complications.

Can horses eat banana bread?

Yes, many horses enjoy the flavor of banana bread. Incorporating bananas in the preparation of bread also increases the nutrient composition. Whole-grain banana bread would be your preferred option.

A banana bread contains protein, which is an essential nutrient for the growth, repair, and recovery of muscles. It also offers healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals like potassium.

While banana bread may seem like a more healthy option, the thumb rule is to stick to the 1-2 slices we mentioned earlier.

Can horses eat white bread?

If there’s one type fed to horses, it’s the white bread or sandwich loaf. The bread is safe as long as you give your tall four-legged friend small quantities. However, sandwich loaf offers little nutritional value to ponies.

The millers refine the wheat flour, removing the bran and germ layers. This means white flour is stripped of vitamins and minerals. For example, the amount of magnesium in white bread is about half of what you’ll get in whole-wheat bread.

Can horses eat moldy bread?

Anything that has traces of mold is a big no-no! It doesn’t matter if it is bread or hay. Mold produces mycotoxins, which are dangerous if they find their way into the body.

The mycotoxins can negatively impact the horse immunity, reproductive, respiratory, and digestive system. If moldy bread can’t produce colic that kills a horse, then your friend might not avoid falling sick.

When it comes to the reproductive aspect, these compound toxins pose an even more significant risk to pregnant mares. A high amount of mold ingestion can lead to the abortion of the foals.

As a safety precaution, it’s a good idea to ensure the bread is fresh and dry. Some people have reported that dry bread can ball up and get stuck in the throat. If you’re using dry bread, the best course of action is to moisten it with water before allowing your equine to eat it.

Can horses eat brown bread?

Unlike sandwich loaf, brown bread is more nutritionally dense. It is commonly known as wheat bread because it retains the bran and germ layers of wheat flour.

There are concerns about gluten-starch balling up in the intestine, leading to blockage and GI issues.

The truth is;

The yeast and heat application alters it, making the bread easily digestible when administered in monitored portions.

Can horses eat seeded bread?

Horse owners are increasingly embracing the idea of adding seeds into their equine diets. Adding seeds to the whole wheat bread helps boost the overall nutrients and gives the bread an appealing flavor.

Like with brown bread, seeded bread also contains a high level of gluten. However, the yeast and heat used in the bread-making process significantly alter the gluten starch, reducing the risk of colic and other issues.

Can horses eat garlic bread?

Garlic bread may not be safe for equine, especially if diagnosed with anemia or blood clotting problems. It will make their condition worse. While the garlic content in bread is not unusually high, you still want to stay away from it.

The sulfur compounds in garlic bread can upset and even damage the digestive tract. In high amounts, they can cause bleeding ulcers and even affect the rate of nutrient absorption.

Disulfides, same as those found in onions, are known to contribute to the depletion of red blood cells because they are involved in the oxidation of hemoglobin.

Can horses eat sourdough bread?

Yes, sourdough bread is one of the healthiest pieces of bread you can feed to horses. It is an excellent source of calories, proteins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, folate, and niacin.

Making this bread involves a unique type of fermentation. The yeast-bacteria composition breaks down much of the starches in grains before the bread even gets to the stomach. The fermentation process of sourdough essentially depletes bad starches present within the bread.

Therefore, sourdough bread is more likely to be easy on the horses’ digestive tract.

Can horses eat raisin bread?

Horses can eat raisin cookies or bread. Like other bread varieties, the key is to eat in moderation as an occasional snack or treat. Such bread contains a good amount of potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.

Can Horses Eat Bread? The Takeaway

If you have read through this article to this point, congratulations! You’re truly a caring horse owner. In summary, bread is not toxic to horses. But it should be fed moderately to avoid health issues like colic and abdominal pain.

While the basic ingredients in bread are not toxic, bread does not rank as a healthy snack in the same breathe.

When it comes to young ones, you better keep a bread treat away from them. They can fall sick quickly.

The reason why many vets are against bread is the high caloric and starch content nature. But if your horse begs for bread, there’s nothing with pleasing her once in a while. However, do not offer more than two slices of bread in one sitting, regardless of whatever type you opt for.

If your horse mistakenly eats a loaf of bread or more than the recommended amount, be sure to contact a vet as soon as you notice unusual signs of a distressed horse.

There you have it!