Can Horses Eat Potatoes?
No! Horses cannot eat potatoes.
Potatoes belong to a family of plants that includes deadly nightshade. This plant is one of the most toxic wild plants. Potatoes share much with their nightshade cousins and that includes a poisonous alkaloid.
Raw potatoes contain a high level of a compound called solanine. This is the alkaloid substance that can cause horses to suffer and maybe even die. Once a horse has ingested solanine it will break down in their gut and turn into a toxin.
Horses have remarkably delicate stomachs for large animals. They have evolved to eat grass and green plants like herbs. Their stomachs are not designed to cope with quantities of carbohydrates.
Humans who eat a toxic substance by mistake will usually rid their system of it by vomiting. This is a natural reaction that forces the stomach to expel the poisonous food by convulsing in such a way that it is ejected through their mouth. Horses cannot vomit so they cannot expel any poisonous food. Instead it will remain in the horse’s stomach. As it breaks down so the toxins in the food pass into the horse and it will become ill.
Can horses eat potato chips?
No, horses should not eat potato chips. While cooking potatoes removes some of the solanine in them, it does not remove it all. Over time the toxin can build up and harm the horse.
Potato chips also contain added chemicals and salt. Additives and salt are both bad for a horse’s digestion. Processed food generally should never be given to a horse as they cannot digest them properly.
Mashed potato should also never be given to horses. Apart from the toxicity of the potatoes, mashing often involves butter, which is likely to make a horse overweight.
Can horses eat potato skins?
Again, no. Potato skins should be avoided both as a regular food and a snack or treat. Just because they have been cooked doesn’t mean they are safe. In fact potato skins contain the highest concentration of solanine of any part of the potato plant.
Potato skins also contain a high level of starch. It is not unknown for potato skins to swell in a horses throat and cause it to choke.
Can horses eat potato plants?
Horses must not be allowed to each any art of a potato plant. Every part of the plant is poisonous. It is good husbandry to make sure there are no potato plants growing where horses are grazing. Check the area around the horses’s paddock and remove any plants from the nightshade family. This includes tomato plants, peppers, aubergines, as well as the wild nightshade plants.
What are the signs of potato poisoning?
If you suspect that your horse has consumed potato, look out for the following signs of potato poisoning:
· Stomach cramps
· Swelling of the abdomen
· Drooling to excess
You might also see signs of:
· Breathing difficulties
· Appetite loss
The latter symptoms mostly follow eating of a large quantity of potatoes.
What to do if a horse shows these signs.
Potato poisoning can be treated but it is essential that help is given quickly. Speed is of utmost importance. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your horse has eaten a large quantity of potatoes, especially raw ones.
The quicker tht treatment can begin, the better the chance of your horse surviving. It is likely that the treatment will include dosing your horse with activated charcoal and also administering a medicine called neostigmine.
Horses are unlikely to eat potatoes or any nightshade family plants. They do not find them at all appetizing and will mostly avoid them. Sometimes, though, a hungry horse might be tempted to eat some if nothing else is available.
The best course of action is to make sure your horse has a proper balanced diet designed specifically for horses. Make sure your horse lives in a field free from wild nightshade plants and avoid the temptation to feed it either raw or cooked potatoes in any form. This way you can be sure your horse is not at any risk of potato poisoning.
Another good reason to avoid feeding potatoes or potato products to your horse is the fact that they are fattening.
Cooked potatoes will cause fewer problems than raw potatoes but they are still not to be recommended as a diet for a horse. Cooked potatoes are full of carbohydrates which can lead to weight gain. Potato products like potato chips contain fats like oil and butter. These are high in calories and also promote weight gain.