Halloween Candy – Horses & Dogs

It’s the time of year when ghosts and goblins are out and about – there are Halloween costume contests and pumpkin spice everything. And the candy! So. Much. Candy.  But what’s safe for our horses and dogs? Can they participate in the fun or will the candy make them sick? Most dog owners know that chocolate is toxic to dogs – but would you know what to do if your pup helps himself to that bowl of peanut butter cups? And our horses LOVE sugary snacks, but what’s really safe for them to have and what’s not?

Let’s begin with dogs and chocolate. First off, if you know your dog has ingested chocolate, call your vet. Depending on the type of chocolate and the size of your dog, you may need to bring them in right away. Cocoa powder is the most toxic type of chocolate and white chocolate is the least. Depending on your situation, your vet might suggest you induce vomiting. If you aren’t sure if they ingested it, you should watch your dog for signs of chocolate toxicity – things like vomiting, diarrhea, confusion and restlessness.  When in doubt, go to your nearest emergency vet clinic.

Besides chocolate, really no candy is truly safe for your dog. Many other types of candy such as gum contain a sweetener called xylitol that can cause liver failure in dogs. It’s best to stick to dog specific treats if you want to give your dog something fun for the holiday.

As for horses, what can they have for a Halloween snack? Of course for any horses with insulin resistance diseases, gastric ulcers or other medical conditions, you should stick with only what your vet suggests for treats and feed. But will the occasional candy corn hurt your ‘normal’ horse? Probably not, but keep in mind candy (mints included) have more sugar in them than just one sugar cube, so keep the Halloween treats to a minimum and keep your horse away from anything chocolate. But the safest thing is just giving your horse a carrot, which he will love just as much!

Happy Halloween everyone!

The Do’s and Dont’s of Feeding Treats

We all enjoy a treat once in awhile – a nice warm brownie fresh out of the oven, a cool slice of watermelon on a hot summer day – and your horse is no different. He will enjoy a treat from you every now and then, or even on a daily basis in small amounts . We share treats with our horses to say thanks for a job well done,  as a reward when training, and let’s admit it  – feeding treats to our horses makes us feel good, too.

There is nothing wrong with treating your horse. He deserves it, and so do you. But there are some guidelines we can use when selecting the type of treat,  as well as the feeding frequency and amount.

  • Select healthy vegetables and fruits as treats – these taste good to your horse and are usually close to foods they eat in their normal diet, so chances of digestive upset are reduced.
  • Feed only a small amount. Feeding your horse 15 large carrots at a time may create more of a meal than a treat. For an average size horse, one or two carrots is sufficient. Feeding too much of any treat can have negative effects on a balanced diet like lowering protein content, raising starch levels and diluting vitamins and minerals. In addition, too much of certain treats can lead to severe digestive upset and even colic or laminitis.
  • Feed sparingly. Treats are only special when they are not available all the time; feeding treats  free choice defeats the purpose.

What are Good Treats?

  • Healthy snacks like apple slices, carrots, and hay cubes are good places to start for a treat. Many horses will even enjoy a banana.
  • Commercially made horse treats can be a favorite for many horses and they may store and travel better than fresh fruit or vegetables when you’re on the road.
  • Sugar cubes are a very traditional (although not very healthy) treat for horses.

What Treats Shouldn’t I Feed?

  • Don’t feed lawn clippings (these can contain poisonous plants, can cause choke, and can drastically change the pH of the hindgut )
  • Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower can cause severe gas if fed in large amounts
  • Potatoes and Tomatoes are members of the nightshade family and while some people report feeding these with no issues it is best to avoid them. 
  • Don’t feed unpitted stone fruits, as the pits can cause choke.
  • Chocolate – while your horse may enjoy it, chocolate can cause a positive result in a drug test.
  • Fresh bread, donuts, etc. – these items can become a doughy mass in the digestive tract and cause a blockage.
  • Sweet Feed (COB & unfortified sweet grains) can quickly unbalance the diet when enough is fed as a “treat”.

When feeding treats, remember the acronym A.I.M. – Always In Moderation. Keep your treats as close as possible to the natural diet and enjoy being a hero to your horse!