March 6, 2024

Equine Poison Prevention Info

March marks Poison Prevention Month, and we checked in with the University of Georgia and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center to get the lowdown on plants that can be harmful to our horses. While this list isn't exhaustive, it covers many plants commonly found in Georgia pastures and landscapes. Horses are naturally curious animals, often prone to nibbling on plants and objects they encounter. However, some of these substances can be toxic and even life-threatening to our equine companions. In this two-part blog post, we'll explore common poisonous plants found in Georgia pastures, as well as safe and unsafe treats for horses.

Horses can come into contact with toxic trees and shrubs in various ways:

  1. They might decide to nibble on trees growing inside their pasture.
  2. Branches blown by storms can end up in their pasture or within reach through fences.
  3. Well-intentioned folks may offer leaves or branches from toxic plants as treats.
  4. Bedding made from toxic trees, especially black walnut, can pose a risk.
  5. Toxic plants may end up baled into their hay.
  6. Being tied up outside their usual pasture exposes them to these plants.
  7. They may snatch a bite while out trail riding.

In any of these scenarios, it's crucial to ensure that these plants are not consumed by your equine friend.

Common Toxic Trees in Georgia :

  1. Red Maple Trees: Found abundantly in Georgia, red maple trees pose a significant threat to horses, especially in the fall when their wilted leaves are most toxic. Ingestion can lead to severe symptoms like colic, jaundice, and even death.
  2. Oak Trees: While oak trees provide ample shade, their acorns and leaves contain tannins and other toxins that can cause digestive issues and kidney damage in horses.
  3. Black Walnut Trees: Black walnut shavings, commonly used in bedding, can be toxic to horses when ingested. Symptoms include laminitis and colic.

Common Toxic Shrubs in Georgia :

  1. Yew: This ornamental shrub, often found in landscaping, contains toxic alkaloids that can cause sudden death in horses if ingested.
  2. Water Hemlock: Commonly mistaken for wild carrots, water hemlock is one of the most toxic plants in Georgia. Ingestion can lead to seizures, paralysis, and death.
  3. Oleander: Found in warm climates in the western and southern United States. Oleander contains a cardiac glycoside that affects the heart and can cause irregular heart rates and rhythm, changes in electrolytes and possibly death.

By familiarizing yourself with these common toxic plants and shrubs, you can take proactive measures to safeguard your horse's health. Regular pasture inspections, proper fencing, and being aware of the plants that are unsafe for your horse can help prevent accidental poisonings and keep your equine companion happy and healthy. We have prepared a a pretty full list of all of the toxic plants found in Georgia.

> Georgia's Toxic Plants

PART 2: What Your Horse Can Eat and What They Should Not

Feeding treats to our equine companions is a common joy for horse owners, but it's essential to be mindful of what we offer them. Horses, with their sensitive digestive systems, may eagerly accept a variety of snacks, but not all treats are created equal. In this guide, we'll explore the dos and don'ts of treating your horse, ensuring their health and happiness remain the top priority with every indulgence.

Treats You Can Feed Your Horse

Many foods are safe and enjoyable treats for horses, but it's important to be cautious, especially if your horse is insulin resistant or prone to choking. Almost any fruits, and many vegetables, are safe treats for healthy horses. Apples and carrots are traditional favorites.

Good, safe snacks for horses include:

  • Carrots
  • Apples (without the core)
  • Pears (without the core)
  • Watermelon
  • Plums (without the stone)
  • Apricots (without the stone)
  • Melon (without the rind)
  • Peaches (without the stone)
  • Strawberries
  • Mango
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Bananas
  • Pineapple Pieces
  • Oranges
  • Green Beans
  • Celery
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Peppermints
  • Pumpkin
  • Snow peas
  • Sugar Cubes
  • Commercial horse treats sold in equine stores

Things Your Horse Should Not Eat

While it's tempting to share a variety of foods with our equine friends, there are several items that should be avoided.

  • Chocolate poses a significant threat to horses due to its theobromine content, which is toxic to equines. Competitive riders should be especially cautious, as chocolate ingestion can lead to positive doping test results.
  • Meat is not suitable for horses, as their digestive systems are specifically adapted for herbivorous diets.
  • Dairy products like milk, ice cream, and yogurt can induce diarrhea in horses due to lactose intolerance.
  • White bread is not adequately digested by horses and may block their digestive systems, resulting in complications.
  • Tomatoes, belonging to the same family as the poisonous nightshade plant, can trigger colic in horses.
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli can produce excessive gas in a horse's stomach, leading to discomfort.
  • Potatoes, particularly when green or rotten, are toxic to horses and may cause respiratory issues if lodged in their airways.
  • Garlic and onions contain N-propyl disulfide, which can induce anemia in horses and should be given sparingly.
  • Rhubarb contains high levels of calcium oxalates, making it toxic to horses and potentially causing tremors and digestive system damage.
  • Fruit stones, pits, or seeds from certain fruits may contain toxic compounds like arsenic or cyanide, posing a danger to horses if consumed in large quantities.
  • Avocado, including its skin, stone, leaves, and bark, is poisonous to horses and can lead to severe health issues such as irregular heartbeat and colic.
  • Caffeine can disrupt a horse's heart rhythm and may result in failed drug tests for competitive animals.
  • Lawn clippings, garden cuttings, and compost should be avoided as they undergo fermentation in the horse's stomach, potentially leading to colic or stomach rupture. Additionally, various plants found in garden waste can be toxic to horses if ingested.

Feeding Your Horse Treats

Feeding treats to your horse can be a rewarding experience, but it's essential to do so in moderation. Treats should be offered sparingly to avoid upsetting your horse's digestion or disrupting their balanced diet. When feeding treats by hand, be mindful of your horse's behavior and use caution to prevent nipping or aggressive behavior. Remember, moderation is key, and it's okay to say no to those pleading looks. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your horse enjoys treats safely and responsibly.

For more information on poison prevention and equine care, don't hesitate to reach out to our team at Countryside. Your horse's well-being is our top priority.

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to protecting your horse from potential hazards.

Protect your horse today and ensure a safer tomorrow!