Can Horses Eat Potatoes? Are They Safe?

Can horses eat potatoes?

Whether you’re buying your first horse or you’re a long-time horse owner, you need to know the answer to this one.

Keep reading, and I’ll tell you everything you need to know to keep your horse safe and healthy.

Let’s go…

Can Horses Eat Potatoes?

black horse looking at the potatoes. can horses eat potatoes?

You should avoid feeding your horse normal potatoes as the ASPCA considers them to be toxic to horses.

Or, more specifically, they consider all nightshade vegetables (Solanum spp) toxic to horses due to them containing the glycoalkaloid solanine.

“What are nightshade vegetables?” I hear you yell. They all belong to the Solanaceae family of plants.

Potatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes are all common vegetables in the nightshade family. Some wild plants are also nightshades.

The sweet potato is the only type of potato that falls outside of this group.

More on that later…

The severity of symptoms varies from horse to horse and depends on the amount of potato eaten.

The result can range from an upset stomach to severe gastrointestinal issues and, in rare cases, death.

We’ll cover potato poisoning in more detail shortly…

We get asked about how safe various types of human foods are for your horse. Can horses eat cucumbers? Is broccoli safe for horses

It’s great that you’re researching before feeding. Remember, it’s always a good idea to consult your vet too.

Your horse may have unique needs based on her health. I’m sure your vet won’t mind you asking can horses eat potatoes.

Can Horses Eat Sweet Potato?

freshly cut sweet potatoes. can horses eat potatoes?

As I touched on briefly earlier, sweet potatoes are not part of the nightshade family of plants. The ASPCA tells us they are non-toxic to horses.

Raw and cooked, sweet potatoes are packed full of vitamins and minerals. They can be a great supplemental source of nutrients for your horse.

They are high in carbohydrates and contain some sugar, so feed in moderation. That said, they are lower in sugar than carrots.

Sweet potatoes can be used as a natural means to help treat equine gastric ulcers. The key word there is help; follow your vet’s advice on how to tackle any condition.

Can Horses Eat Mashed Potato?

Potato being cooked and mashed. Can horses eat potatoes?

Mashed potatoes and other forms of cooked potato are less likely to poison a horse. This is because the cooking process breaks down some of the solanine.

The majority of solanine is in the potato’s skin, so peeling can help to reduce the risk of your horse ingesting this chemical.

Different cooking methods will eliminate solanine at different rates. Dr. Georgia Ede offers the following stats:

  • Boiling: Reduces solanine by a few percent
  • Microwave: Reduces solanine by 15%
  • Deep frying (300°F): No reduction
  • Deep frying (410°F): Reduces solanine by 40%

While there is no guarantee that cooking will eliminate all harmful substances, cooked and peeled white potatoes will be safer.

A quick note on potato chips, these are heavy in fat, salt, and flavorings. We wouldn’t consider them to be a good treat for horses.

Potato Poisoning in Horses

Close-up shot of potato leaves. can horses eat potato leaves?

As we’ve already mentioned, the severity of poisoning will vary greatly depending on the amount of potato/plant consumed.

The leaves of the potato plant and any green potatoes are some of the most toxic parts. Rotten potatoes are also more potent.

Signs and symptoms of potato poisoning include:

  • Colic / Digestive issues
  • Depression
  • Drowsiness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Salivation
  • Respiratory distress
  • Constipation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Diarrhea containing blood

In the most severe of cases, poisoning can lead to cardiac arrest and death.

Horses are large creatures, so a nibble on a small piece of raw potato will not affect them significantly.

Problems are more likely if potatoes form a part of a horse’s daily diet.

While I wasn’t able to find a specific number, all sources point to a horse needing to eat a lot of potatoes to suffer the worst effects.

It goes without saying you’ll need to do something if you think your horse is suffering the effects of potato poisoning. But what?

Let’s look at that right now…

What to Do If Your Horse Eats Potatoes?

horse eating grass beside yellow wild flowers

If your horse has eaten a single raw potato, it’s probably not the end of the world. \Monitor them over the coming days and watch for the signs and symptoms of potato poisoning listed above.

If you think your horse has eaten larger quantities or is showing signs of suffering from potato poisoning, contact your vet.

Any immediate treatment will involve trying to remove/neutralize the toxins in your horse’s digestive system. Beyond that, it is a case of treating the symptoms.

If in doubt, speak to your vet. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

FAQs

Do potatoes kill horses?

Eating a lot of potatoes could poison and kill a healthy horse. Potatoes belong to the nightshade family of plants, all of which are toxic to horses. Although cooking removes some of the toxins, it does not eliminate them entirely.

Can horses eat potato peel/skin?

Horses should not eat potato peel or skin as this contains the highest concentration of the toxins that are poisonous to horses. Even deep-frying potato peels will not eliminate these toxins. Avoid feeding your horse potato peel.

In Conclusion

Can horses eat potatoes? That’s the question you wanted answered, and that’s precisely what we’ve done in this article.

You learned that regular potatoes are part of the deadly nightshade family and that they are toxic to horses.

We also discovered that sweet potatoes don’t fall into this group, are not toxic, and are a great source of vitamins. A good treat for horses.

While peeled, cooked potatoes are safer, we still advise you don’t feed them to your horse in any form. 

There are many horse-safe snacks like cubed apples (minus the seeds), carrots, and sunflower seeds.

Can horses eat potatoes? You might get away with it but is it worth the risk. We’d say no.

You learned the signs and symptoms that may indicate your horse is suffering from potato poisoning and that you should contact a vet if you spot them.

We make every effort to conduct thorough research, but each horse is unique. Speak to your vet if you are exploring new food options for your horse.

References

  • Nightshade n.d., ASPCA, viewed 25 May 2021, <https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/nightshade>.
  • Pearson, K 2020, Are Nightshades Bad for You?, Healthline, viewed 25 May 2021, <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/nightshade-vegetables>.
  • Sweet Potato Vine n.d., ASPCA, viewed 25 May 2021, <https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/sweet-potato-vine>.
  • Bates, A n.d., Can Horses Eat Sweet Potatoes?, Pet Keen, viewed 25 May 2021, <https://petkeen.com/can-horses-eat-sweet-potatoes/>.
  • Ede, G n.d., How Deadly Are Nightshades?, Diagnosis:DIET, viewed 25 May 2021, <https://www.diagnosisdiet.com/full-article/nightshades>.
  • Weeds in Australia: Your Guide to Toxic Poisoning n.d., Exclusively Equine Veterinary Services, viewed 25 May 2021, <https://eevs.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Weeds-In-Australia-Your-Guide-To-Toxin-Poisoning.pdf>. 
a woman giving potatoes to horses but can horses eat potatoes? are they safe?

Can horses eat potatoes? Share your thoughts in the comments below!c

Barry Stingmore
Barry Stingmore

Barry Stingmore is a British content writer living in Fuerteventura, Spain. An animal lover at heart, he shares his home with a dog and four rescue cats and has a passion for writing about animals big and small.

He has only ridden a horse once but spent a lot of time working alongside them in the British police.

Barry loves finding answers to your animal-related questions, the more research involved the better! You can rely on him to find the facts.

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