If you are a small pet owner, you may know that chocolate is bad for your furry family members, but since “food rules” for small animals do not always apply to larger livestock, you might be wondering about your horse. Can horses eat chocolate? As many horse owners know, it is very important to know what is and is not safe for horses to eat as a special treat, and chocolate is no exception.

In the case of chocolate, the rules that apply to small pets also applies to horses. In fact, there are several reasons that chocolate is not a safe treat for you to offer your horse. While there may be some equine nutritionists and veterinarians who say that a very small amount of chocolate is safe to offer, most reject that idea because of a chemical found in chocolate known as theobromine. The least concerning side effect of theobromine is that, if ingested in even small amounts, it can cause a horse to have a positive result for performance enhancing drugs during a routine drug test.

The most concerning, and dangerous, fact about the theobromine found in chocolate, is that your horse cannot metabolize this chemical compound. This means that when your horse eats chocolate, the chemical remains in your horse’s system, building up until it reaches levels that can cause severe health problems. Too much theobromine can cause any of the following problems: heart attacks, seizures, and internal bleeding. In some cases, ingesting large amounts of chocolate over time can contain enough theobromine to cause death.

If your horse is often around people who do not own horses or are unfamiliar with horses (such as friends or at fairs or festivals), you may encounter individuals who want to offer your horse a special treat. If they ask, “Can horses eat chocolate?”, be sure to politely and firmly tell them no, and explain why horses cannot eat chocolate. Not only will your horse be safe, you may prevent that person from offering chocolate to another horse.

There are many foods that you can offer to your horse as a safe, delicious treat. However, chocolate is not one of those foods and should never be offered to horses.

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