Can Horses Eat Candy Canes? (Helpful Guide & Tips)

It is rare to come across a horse that refuses a minty treat but can horses eat candy canes?

Candy canes and other sweet treats have high amounts of sugar.

Too much sugar isn’t good for your horse.

Here we will take a look at what candy and how much is safe for horses to eat. 

Related: Can Horses Eat Turnips? Are They Toxic? 

Can Horses Eat Candy Canes?

candy canes on jar: can horses eat candy canes?

Candy canes are a popular holiday treat. The sweet minty taste is not only appealing to people but loved by horses too.

Half of a standard-sized candy cane can contain as much as 11 grams of sugar.

Considering horses can consume several hundred grams of sugar per day, even several pounds, 11 grams is negligible. 

It is sound to say that candy canes are safe for horses to eat as the occasional treat.

However, there are a few instances where a horse should not have candy canes or other sugary treats. We will delve deeper into this a little later.

What Candy Can Horses Eat?

white horse eating grass with brown horses

Candy canes aren’t the only type of candy horse owners keep hidden in their pockets.

The choice of candy available is enormous. But is all candy safe for horses to eat? What candy is OK in moderation, and what type should horses never eat?

Horses, like dogs, can not eat chocolate. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic and causes serious liver, heart, kidney, and nervous system problems.

Unlike dogs, horses cannot vomit, which makes chocolate even riskier. 

Most non-chocolate candy is safe for horses to eat in very small quantities. Hard candies, jelly beans, candy corn, and even Skittles are safe.

However, be cautious with licorice, as it can cause a positive drug test. You should also avoid feeding chewy candy, as it can get stuck in the horse’s teeth.

Is peppermint candy safe for horses?

peppermint candy canes on a bowl

Peppermint candy is essentially a small version of the candy cane that is available year-round. It is probably the most popular treat given to horses.

A single Brach’s Star Bright contains 3.7 grams of sugar. This equates to about .38% of the daily sugar intake for the average horse.

Peppermint candy, including candy canes, can be made with peppermint oil or artificial flavoring. Real peppermint oil is extracted directly from the plant.

For centuries, it has been thought that peppermint is beneficial to the digestive system.

The oil helps to soothe and relax the digestive tract. It also helps relieve trapped gas.

This is why horse owners looking for a holistic approach to feeding their horse, like adding peppermint oil to the ratio of horses prone to colic and other digestive issues.

Artificial flavoring creates very little risk to your horse in small quantities. However, it is less healthy than real peppermint oil.

In 2018, the FDA banned several artificial flavorings after tests in lab animals found them to be carcinogenic.

Included in the ban is pulegone, which was commonly used in mint candy. This is a positive step towards healthier artificial flavoring.

If possible, give your horse candy canes flavored with real peppermint oil. Even though the amount of oil in the candy is small, the potential for some positive benefits is appealing.

Finally, if artificial flavors are showing carcinogenic effects, it’s best to avoid them where you can.

Can horses have sugar cubes?

sugar cubes

Horses can have sugar cubes. They make a good treat for when a horse is wearing a bit, as they will dissolve in the mouth and increase salivation.

One regular sugar cube contains 4 grams of sugar.

Like any sweet treat, you should only give your horse sugar cubes sparingly. Keep it to no more than once per day, or only as a special reward.

Is peppermint oil safe for horses?

Peppermint oil is safe for horses, but it should never be fed or used topically straight.

When using peppermint oil, only use pure oil without fillers. When feeding it, dilute only a couple of drops in a carrier oil.

Seek advice from an expert on what ratio to use with your choice of oil. When using peppermint oil topically, you will also need to dilute it.

It can help soothe sore muscles when used as a rinse. To use peppermint oil in this way, add a couple of drops to a bucket of water.

Peppermint oil used in candy is food safe. Giving your horses candy canes flavored with peppermint oil will not harm your horse, but you still need to give this high sugar treat in moderation.

Watch Out For Xylitol

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is used in many candies as an alternative to sugar.

It is increasingly common to find xylitol in hard candy, such as peppermints.

While this sweetener is safe for people, it is not safe for animals, including horses.

It is particularly toxic for dogs and can lead to death. In horses, the risk is not as high as it is for dogs, but still worth considering.  

Don’t take the risk of xylitol having a negative effect on your horse.

You are better off giving your horse candy that uses real sugar instead of artificial sweeteners. 

Can Horses Eat Candy Canes FAQS

HOW DO HORSES METABOLIZE SUGAR?

white horse eating grass with brown horses

When a horse eats sugar, it is absorbed by the small intestine in two parts, glucose and fructose. When glucose enters the bloodstream, it triggers a release of insulin. Fructose is processed by the horse’s liver and leads to the body creating fat.

WHAT RISKS DOES SUGAR HAVE FOR HORSES?

A horse with IR, the main symptom of Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), is producing more insulin than normal. Giving these horses candy will only lead to the creation of more insulin production, which increases the risk of laminitis. In PSSM horses, sugar leads to an increase in fatty acid storage, which can trigger Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS).

WHAT HORSES SHOULDN’T EAT CANDY CANES?

Certain horses should not eat candy canes or any other type of candy. If your horse suffers from laminitis, Cushings, IR (insulin resistant), or PSSM (polysaccharide storage myopathy) the sugar in their overall diet must be closely monitored. These diseases are affected by high sugar consumption.

If your horse has one of these diseases or is at risk of developing them, keep sugary treats out of their diet.

Instead, use an alternative treat, such as a carrot. Avoid sugar-free candy as it can contain sweeteners that could be toxic.

Sugar-free candy has been shown to increase insulin levels in the blood, which can exacerbate diseases such as Cushings.

Final Thoughts

Giving your horse candy canes or other types of candy shouldn’t worry you.

A healthy horse with no underlying conditions can digest these sugary treats without any ill effects.

It is a good idea to always air on the side of caution.

Keep candy treats to a minimum, no more than one small one a day. Watch out for sugar-free options, as these can be toxic.

They aren’t a substitute for horses that have health issues such as Cushings or IR.

a horse eating a candy cane

Can horses eat candy canes? What are your thoughts about it? share with us below!

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.

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