Can Horses Eat Tomatoes? (A Complete Guide)

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Can Horses Eat Tomatoes?

No, horses can not eat tomatoes. Tomatoes contain the poisonous elements atropine, hyoscyamine, and solanine that can cause serious health issues if ingested by horses. 

A ripe, red tomato is one of the best parts of summer, especially if you pick them straight off the vine. But did you know that these seemingly innocuous red fruits are poisonous to horses?

Can Horses Eat Tomatoes

Tomatoes are prolific growers, popping up swiftly and growing to huge sizes, so it’s not unheard of for an errant tomato plant to creep into a horse’s grazing pasture. Unfortunately, every part of the tomato plant is toxic to equines, so be vigilant with your tomato plants!

Are Tomatoes Good For Horses?

Tomatoes are incredibly versatile for humans and are the backbone of many favorite dishes. A large crop of tomatoes is usually something to be celebrated; that is unless you have a hungry horse.

If a horse isn’t getting enough grazing greens, they’ll be much more likely to eat a tomato plant they come across. 

Tomatoes are not good for horses. In fact, if a horse eats tomatoes, it can be terrible for them. 

Tomato poisoning can be hard to detect and look similar to many other ailments that horses suffer from, which is one of the big reasons you’ll need to be very careful about growing your tomatoes anywhere near where your horses graze.

Are Tomatoes Safe For Horses?

Tomatoes are not safe for horses.

It isn’t just the tomato fruit that can be problematic. The green parts of the plant, including leaves and stems, also contain elements that are toxic to horses, so even tomato plants with nothing on the vine can be dangerous. 

Hungry horses eat anything that they find while grazing, and while they don’t seek tomato plants, a hungry horse will eat anything leafy and green they can find. 

As for the tomato fruit, horse owners report that horses dislike them greatly, even going as far as to separate them from their normal feed when the tomatoes were accidentally included. That horses don’t like the taste of these toxic plants is a boon to farmers struggling to keep their tomato plants away from their horses. 

Tomato plants are a member of the Solanaceae, or nightshade family; a notorious group of poisonous plants. When ingested, the tomato plant causes severe digestive distress and depression in the horse.

According to HorseDVM, in order to be toxic, a horse would need to consume 2.5 mg of parts of the plant per kg of body weight.

Instead of risking your horse’s health by feeding them tomatoes, turn instead to safe snacks like celery, lettuce, corn, and squash. Your horse will thank you!

What Are The Risks Of Horses Eating Tomatoes?

It can be tempting to slip your horse a few small cherry tomatoes, but even the smallest amount of tomatoes carry a hefty risk. Each horse has a different tolerance, and it’s impossible to know how much is too much.

Tomatoes actually have multiple elements in them that cause them to be poisonous, not just one. 

There are 3 major elements of tomatoes that make them toxic to horses.

Those ingredients are: 

  • Atropine 
  • Hyoscyamine
  • Solanine

Each of these elements is detrimental to your horse in different ways. 

Atropine

When ingested by horses, atropine can slow down the mobility of their digestive tract.

This can become a serious problem that causes colic, constipation, and diarrhea. Because of the size of a horse’s digestive tract and the potential of deadly bloat, anything that affects the digestive tract can swiftly become an emergency.

Hyoscyamine

Hyoscyamine toxins likewise affected horses in tomato fruit, which disable their salivary glands, reduce saliva production, and reduce intestinal movement.

Without adequate salvia, the horse’s digestive system will struggle to work, and the horse will also have trouble swallowing. 

Solanine

By delaying motility in the digestive tract, poisonous solanine, the toxin found in the green leafy sections of tomatoes causes throat swelling and severe indigestion. 

Solanine is an alkaloid and can cause alkaloid poisoning. Although the poisons are concentrated in the leafy section of the plant, we can also find them inside the fruit. Don’t allow your horse to eat any portion of the tomato plant!

Symptoms Of Tomato Poisoning In Horses

Even if we are as careful as can be, accidents happen. Tomato plant vines can creep under fences, or a single dropped tomato can cause multiple plants to pop up the next summer where they aren’t wanted.

If you think your horse may have ingested a tomato or tomato plant, here are the signs and symptoms of poisoning to look for:

  • Bradycardia and bradypnea- Slow heart rate and slow breathing 
  • Excessive saliva production or lack of saliva 
  • Jerky twitching movements 
  • Colic- Any abdominal pain, but even less threatening abdominal pain can rapidly become serious in horses 
  • Blindness
  • Ataxia- Wobbly gait
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Inability to stand 
  • Odd behavior- Behavior like nervousness and lack of response 

Colic and diarrhea are the first two signs many horse owners notice, and as horse owners know, horse health issues need to be dealt with right away. For as large as horses are, they are medically delicate and need rapid medical care if something is wrong.

Can Tomatoes Kill Horses?

Yes, tomatoes can kill horses. According to the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers, the fatal dose of tomatoes for a horse is anywhere from 1 to 10 pounds, depending on the individual horse and its tolerance. 

A smaller-than-fatal amount of tomato consumption should still not be taken lightly. The digestive issues stemming from tomato consumption can cause extreme discomfort in your horse.

You should never feed your horse tomatoes, even in minuscule amounts. 

Will Horses Eat Tomato Plants?

Horses don’t particularly enjoy tomato plants or tomato fruit, but every horse is different. If a horse has scarce amounts of fresh plants to graze, it may turn to eat toxic tomatoes. 

If given the option, a horse will usually always choose something besides tomatoes, but like all animals, they are unpredictable. Don’t assume your horse is trustworthy around tomato plants. Just remove the plants completely to avoid any tragic accidents.

What Happens If A Horse Eats A Tomato Plant?

If you suspect your horse has consumed tomatoes or tomato plants, consult with your veterinarian right away. 

If a horse eats a tomato plant, the first symptoms that are commonly noticed are diarrhea, colic, and excess salivation. If you see these symptoms, professional help may be needed.

Once a horse eats a tomato, it will begin to have digestive discomfort rather quickly. Horses don’t have the ability to vomit, so anything problematic that they eat can’t be quickly purged. Instead of purging, veterinarians will instead use methods like flushing out the stomach or activated charcoal. 

What To Do If Your Horse Has Eaten Tomatoes

The first step when any illness, especially toxins or poisons, is suspected, is calling a veterinarian. It’s a smart idea to have the phone number of emergency vets that deal with large farm animals for those after-hours problems. 

Keep your horse calm while you await your veterinarian. Don’t allow them to eat anything else or get too worked up.

Once the vet has arrived, it’s likely he will do a urinalysis and some blood work to determine the alkaloid poisoning. Solanine is an alkaloid, and if it’s detected in either the urine or blood, further treatment will be required.

For alkaloid poisoning, the vet will administer a drug called neostigmine. This drug will help reverse some of the depressive effects of the tomato plant.

Activated charcoal is also commonly used. It will be given to your horse orally, and the active charcoal will soak up any poison left in the stomach and prevent it from being absorbed during digestion

A vet would give most animals that digest toxins an emetic, but since horses can’t vomit, activated charcoal is the first choice.

If caught early enough, horses can recover from eating tomato plants. With that being said, it’s important to note that the best treatment for tomato poisoning is actually prevention. 

Scour your grazing fields and adjacent areas for rogue tomato plants, and pay attention to everything your horse is being fed.  

In Summary

Although you might think horses and healthy, garden-grown tomatoes should go together, tomatoes are actually bad news for horses. To keep your hooved friend safe, keep this guide on hand and be vigilant!

  • Horses can not eat tomatoes. Tomatoes are toxic to horses and can cause digestive distress, among other ailments.
  • Vegetables and fruit can be a healthy addition to the diet of horses, but tomatoes are poisonous and are not horse safe. 
  • Tomatoes contain alkaloids that are poisonous to horses. Those alkaloids are atropine, hyoscyamine, and solanine.
  • Tomatoes are members of the nightshade family.
  • Symptoms of tomato poisoning often start with colic and diarrhea and progress from there.
  • If a horse eats a tomato, call your vet immediately. If caught early enough, horses can recover from tomato toxicity.

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