An interesting behavioral aspect among pet owners is their preference for pet food based on their personal likes and dislikes, instead of what the animal would like more. For this reason, people can be seen looking up if their pets can have the same foods as themselves. Questions like, can horses eat tomatoes, are popular search items.

The other reason many pet owners would take the pains to search such questions is the likelihood of some human foods’ toxicity to the companion animals. It gets even more complicated when these people live on farms and need to weed out or put up fences around items that could lead to possible poisoning.

Can Horses Eat Tomatoes?

Coming back to the main question, no horses cannot eat tomatoes. The fruit, or vegetable, is perfectly fine for human consumption, but it can have a range of toxic effects on the equids. The reason is that tomato belongs to the plant family Solanaceae, infamous for harboring toxic compounds, in this case, the tropane alkaloids. Comprising over 200 known compounds, the tropane alkaloids important in this context include atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine.

While scopolamine is considered to be the primary culprit for the adverse health effects related to tomato consumption, together, these chemicals are responsible for neurological and gastrointestinal effects on the horses. Health implications range from pupil dilation, dry mouth, and increased heart rate to more serious conditions like constipation and reduced intestine motility. The latter can translate into colic, a potentially dangerous condition for the horses, or the more severe hemorrhagic diarrhea.

Luckily, the concentration of tropane alkaloids is lower compared to the other more toxic nightshade plants. So, it will take the horse to consume a big proportion until any toxic effects appear. However, the major compound tomatine happens to be fungicidal. The highest concentrations of the chemical can be found in the leaves and stem, followed by the fruit. In the case of the fruit, however, tomatine concentrations are only higher when the fruit is still green (un-ripened) and fall to undetectable levels once it matures.

Horses do not like to taste tomatoes; the real danger actually lies in the foliage. Particularly on farms, an unsuspecting horse may attempt to consume the tomato plant and end up getting sick. Also, even though the toxins are lower in the fruit, they are still there, and it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to interaction with toxins.

What to Do When a Horse Eats Tomatoes?

If your horse accidentally consumes tomatoes/tomato vines and shows signs of poisoning, getting treatment for the displayed symptoms would do the job, provided it is not overly stressed. But if the condition advances to display neurological symptoms like pupil dilation, muscular tremors, and ataxia, it may need physostigmine treatment.

If the poisoning gets detected early on, immediate administration of activated charcoal can serve as effective means to adsorb and remove the toxins. A reminder here to never administer any medication without consultation with your veterinary expert. The information shared here is for your knowledge only; use your discretionary abilities and consultation with a professional to make the final call.

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What Other Foods Can Horses Not Eat?

1. Avocado

 Close-up of Avocado
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Avocados have the fungicidal chemical pectin in their fruits and leaves. While it does not leave any negative impacts on humans, it could prompt fluid accumulation in organs like the lungs, heart, abdomen, and pancreas, eventually leading to asphyxiation and possible death. Typically horses may have to bear the impact in the form of mastitis.

2. Caffeine

Caffeine, the chemical found in drinks like coffee and tea, is toxic for horse consumption. You might think these are not the kind of drinks anyone would give their horses. True that, but the racehorses are exposed to caffeine toxicity as a result of caffeine tablet ingestion.

3. Cheese

Mature horses are lactose intolerant; therefore, giving them cheese will upset their digestive system. Equines cannot hydrolyze lactose in their gastrointestinal tracks. If they are offered dairy, their hindgut will attempt to digest it via fermentation and end up with diarrhea.

4. Chocolate

Chocolates have a chemical compound called the methylxanthine alkaloid theobromine, which is toxic to both horses and small pets. Concentrations of the toxic chemical are higher in dark chocolate than the milk chocolate. Horses undergo chocolate-prompted toxicosis when they use bedding made out of cocoa beans waste/hull.  

5. Garlic and Onion

 Close-up of Garlic and Onions
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Belonging to the allium family of plants, both onions and garlic can damage the red blood cells. Active compounds from both the vegetables participate in the process, resulting in hemoglobin denaturation, eventually developing anemia and the Heinz body and hindering their ability to carry

6. Potato

 Close-up of Potato
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Another member of the Solanaceae plant family, the potato, has two main toxic glycoalkaloids, α-solanine and α-chaconine. Both the chemicals have fungicidal and insecticidal properties. Concentrations are the highest in the stem, leaves, unripened or greened (post-harvest exposure to mechanical, light, or low-temperature stress). With toxicity levels higher than tomatoes, potato tubers have the potential to cause gastrointestinal and neurological effects in horses, albeit if consumed in very large quantities.

Can Horses Eat Tomatoes? Summing Up!

Tomatoes are ubiquitous fruits eaten raw, in salads, used in the preparation of meals, and as sides to other foods. The popular farm produce could tempt many farm dwellers. As for as its consumption by horses is concerned, well, they cannot eat tomatoes. Tomatoes are toxic for the horses, even more so in their unripened, green form. While horses do not seem to take a liking to the fruit, they might take a little helping from the forage, which is even more worrisome. The tomato plant has a higher concentration of toxins and risks causing intestinal discomfort, including colic and hemorrhagic diarrhea and neurological effects.

The equine digestive system is built for processing largely forage and hat. Any sides could include some mineral licks and, if necessary, some grains. Maintaining a steady supply of these feeds is key to ensuring the horse does not consume foliage that otherwise seems unpalatable to them. Another good measure to ensure equine safety would be to fence the area where you grow tomatoes. While there are a few options you could opt for in case of tomato poisoning of the horse, it is best left for the vet to decide. Consult your vet beforehand and seek options for emergencies.

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