Can horses eat human sweets?

Quick Answer

No, horses should not eat human sweets or candy. Horses have different nutritional needs than humans and cannot properly digest sugars and additives commonly found in sweets. Eating candy or sugary foods can cause digestive upset, colic, laminitis, and other health issues in horses. It’s best to stick to a fiber-rich equine diet and avoid feeding horses processed human foods.

Can Horses Eat Chocolate?

Chocolate and cocoa products – like candy bars, baked goods, fudge, etc – are not safe for horses to eat. Chocolate contains two compounds – theobromine and caffeine – that horses cannot metabolize efficiently. When horses consume chocolate, the stimulants theobromine and caffeine build up in their system and can reach toxic levels.

Even small amounts of chocolate can make horses very sick. Just a few ounces of chocolate can cause reactions like hyperactivity, tremors, heart arrhythmias, seizures, and death in horses. Dark chocolate and baking chocolate contain higher levels of theobromine and are more dangerous than milk chocolate. But all forms of chocolate and cocoa should be kept far away from horses.

Can Horses Eat Candy With Sugar?

Candy and sweets with added sugar – like mints, hard candies, candy canes, gummy bears, etc – are also hazardous for horses. While the sugar itself is not directly toxic, eating sugary foods can lead to potentially fatal health conditions in horses.

When horses consume too much sugar, it can throw off the microbial balance in their hindgut and digestive system. This can trigger digestive upset like colic, gas, and diarrhea. High sugar intake is also linked to laminitis, a painful hoof condition that can cause permanent lameness in horses.

Even if the sugar doesn’t initially make them sick, the excess calories from candy can lead to obesity, insulin resistance, and metabolic disorders over time. It’s best not to feed horses any sugary snacks made for human consumption.

Dangers of Xylitol

Some sugar-free candies and gums contain the artificial sweetener xylitol. Xylitol is extremely toxic to horses, even in small amounts. Unlike humans, horses cannot metabolize xylitol. If horses ingest xylitol, it can cause a rapid and dangerous drop in blood sugar and liver failure.

Just a few pieces of xylitol-sweetened gum or candy are enough to make a horse seriously ill. Make sure horses do not have access to any products containing xylitol.

Can Horses Eat Candy With Artificial Ingredients?

Most commercial candies contain artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, and preservatives that are not designed for equine consumption. While some additives like artificial colors may not directly harm horses, others can cause adverse reactions.

For example, the preservative butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) found in some candies is toxic at high dosages. The petroleum-based food dye Red Dye #40 may also pose health risks. And as mentioned above, sugar substitutes like xylitol are extremely dangerous for horses.

With so many potentially hazardous ingredients in human candies and sweets, it’s better not to take any chances and keep all candy away from horses. The artificial additives provide no nutritional benefit and could only harm your horse’s health.

Healthy Horse Treat Alternatives

Instead of candy, there are many safer, healthier treat options for horses. Some ideas for nutritious horse treats include:

– Carrots
– Apples or apple slices
– Bananas
– Hay cubes or other compressed forage products
– Horse treats made with grains and molasses
– Low-sugar horse “mints” made with natural ingredients

You can also offer small amounts of grains like oats, barley, and unmolassed beet pulp as an occasional treat. But be sure to account for these extra calories in their daily ration.

Focus on treats made specifically for horses to ensure they align with your horse’s nutritional needs. Avoid excess sugars, stick to natural ingredients, and always feed treats in moderation.

Can Horses Eat Homemade Sweets and Desserts?

It’s still not a great idea to offer horses homemade treats with lots of added sugar like cookies, cakes, pies, or other desserts. Even if you bake them yourself using natural ingredients, the high sugar content can disproportionately impact a horse’s diet and digestive health.

A 1,000 lb horse should only have 2-4 ounces of sugar per day at most. Just one cookie or small slice of cake could surpass that amount. The wheat flour, butter/oil, and sugar in baked goods are also very different from the fiber-based horse diet needed to keep their gut functioning properly.

While people food generally won’t immediately kill a horse, it’s best saved for human consumption only. Horses do much better nutrition and health-wise when they are fed a structured diet designed for their species.

What About Fruits and Vegetables?

Fruits and non-starchy vegetables in their whole form can be fed to horses safely in moderation. Produce like carrots, apples, celery, cucumbers, watermelon rinds, etc make healthy, low-sugar treats when fed sparingly. You can also blend produce into DIY “smoothies” for horses.

Just be mindful of some important precautions with produce:

– Introduce new fruits/veggies gradually to watch for any intestinal upset.
– Remove pits, seeds, cores, peels, and rinds when warranted. Some are hard for horses to digest or may contain toxins.
– Cut into bite-sized pieces to minimize choke hazard.
– Limit fruit treats to 1-2 cups per day. Fruits are higher in sugar than vegetables.
– Rinse off any pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals.
– Avoid moldy, rotting, or bruised portions.

Overall fruits and veggies can enrich a horse’s eating experience and provide beneficial nutrition. Just feed them as sporadic treats, not daily bulk. And stick to produce feeding guidelines tailored specifically for equines.

Can Horses Eat Baked Goods With Honey or Molasses?

Sweeteners like honey and molasses are sometimes added to horse treats and baked goods marketed for equines. These natural sugars are less harmful than refined white sugar. But they can still contribute excess calories and carbohydrates if overfed.

Molasses, in particular, offers some nutritional advantages. It’s high in minerals like iron, copper, and magnesium. Many horses really seem to relish the flavor too. However, molasses is high in sugar -around 50% by weight. Too much can cause the same issues as consuming other sugary foods.

Honey has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that can potentially benefit the horse digestive tract. But its sugars need to be limited as well.

When choosing horse treats and feed containing honey or molasses, look for options with lower sugar content. Focus on other healthy ingredients like oats, barley, flaxseed, etc. Instead of using molasses daily, reserve it for special occasions to keep sugar intake in check.

Overall, honey and molasses are better than white sugar, but still sugar sources that require conservative feeding.

Can Horses Eat Hard Candy?

Horses should not be given hard candies, mints, lozenges or cough drops formulated for human consumption. The sugar content is far too high for horses. And hard candies pose a major choking risk – they can easily become lodged in the horse’s esophagus, causing an obstruction.

Plus, many commercial hard candies contain artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives never intended for horses to ingest. Some lozenges may also have menthol, eucalyptus, or other medicinal ingredients that could be problematic at high doses in horses.

Rather than offer horses hard candy, look for low-sugar horse treats made with digestible, unprocessed ingredients. Or stick with gentler treat options like apples and carrots. Avoid the choking hazard and toxicity risks of human hard candies.

Can Horses Eat Marshmallows?

Marshmallows are essentially sugar molded into a soft, spongy foam. The main ingredients – sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin – provide no nutritional value for horses. And marshmallows present some safety concerns:

-Very high sugar levels – Marshmallows contain over 30% sugar. Eating more than 1 or 2 could overload a horse’s digestive system.

-Choking hazard – The fluffy texture could obstruct a horse’s throat. Always cut soft, sticky foods like marshmallows into tiny pieces before feeding.

-Artificial additives – Marshmallows have artificial colors and flavors added not designed for equines. Stick to treats with only natural ingredients.

-Allergies – Some horses may be allergic or sensitive to gelatin. Diarrhea or hives could result.

While an occasional tiny marshmallow nibble likely won’t harm an otherwise healthy horse, it provides zero health benefits. Owners are better off sticking with nutritious fruits and horse treats to spoil their horses.

Can Horses Eat Candy With Nuts or Peanuts?

Most types of nuts and peanuts are not recommended for horses. The high fat content can lead to inflammatory conditions like laminitis, especially when eaten in excess. Some specific concerns with nuts include:

– Acidosis – High fat nuts can cause hindgut acidosis. English walnuts and black walnuts are especially risky.

– Mold toxins – Nuts, particularly peanuts, are prone to mold growth that produces dangerous mycotoxins.

– Choking hazards – Whole nuts don’t break down well and can become lodged in horses’ throats.

– Allergies – Tree nut allergies occur in some horses. Symptoms may include diarrhea, itchy skin, and swelling.

– Cracked teeth – Hard nuts like almonds require excess chewing and can crack molars.

For candy with nuts, compounds like theobromine in chocolate combined with high fat content create a double health whammy for horses. Avoid candies containing any type of nuts or nut butters, even in small quantities.

Can Horses Eat Candy With Caramel, Fudge, or Toffee?

It’s best not to share any candy, caramel, fudge, or other sweets containing hot melted sugar like toffee with horses. Potential issues include:

– Burn risk – The extremely hot temperatures required to work with melted sugar or make caramel could burn a horse’s mouth and esophagus if eaten immediately.

– Choking hazard – Dense, chewy caramel has a thick, sticky consistency that’s challenging for horses to swallow and may obstruct their airway.

– Sugar overload – These confections are rich in sugar and corn syrup, causing excess fermentation and possible laminitis.

– Ingredient toxicity – Candy with hot melted sugar may also contain chocolate, cocoa, nuts, and other problematic ingredients for horses.

– No nutritional value – Caramel and similar sugar candies supply zero nutritional benefits, only extra calories.

Instead of candy, opt for something horses can nibble safely. Grazing on a flake of hay will satisfy their need to chew while providing fiber.

Can Horses Eat Candy With Coconut?

Coconut meat, milk, water, and oil have gained popularity as “health foods” for humans. But horses don’t reap the same wellness benefits from coconut-containing products as people. Horses should not eat candies like:

– Mounds bars
– Almond Joy
– Coconut truffles
– Pina colada fudge

Issues with coconut candies for horses include:

– High calories – The saturated fat in coconut boosts calorie counts. Obesity can result from overfeeding.

– Sensitivity – Some horses seem to be sensitive or allergic to coconut ingredients, developing diarrhea or skin reactions. It’s best to introduce coconut gradually and minimally.

– Choking – Candies with shredded coconut or coconut flakes could pose a choking risk.

– Toxic ingredients – Candy bars with coconut typically also contain chocolate, which is toxic for horses.

Instead of coconut candy, feed horses an actual piece of coconut meat on occasion if they enjoy the flavor. But there are far healthier treat choices.

Can Horses Eat Candy With Yogurt or Caramel?

Candy with ingredients like yogurt, caramel, or cream are not suited for horses. Horses are lactose intolerant, meaning they lack enough of the enzyme lactase needed to properly digest dairy sugars like lactose.

Consuming dairy products can cause digestive upset in horses, with symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, and gas. Even if a horse doesn’t react negatively, dairy provides little nutritional benefit.

Caramel and other candies with melted sugar have pitfalls as well – they pose a choking risk and have no nutritional value. They are essentially straight sugar and corn syrup.

Ultimately horses don’t benefit from excess empty calories and added sugar. Offer treats with nutrients that actually support their diet and health instead.

Health Concerns With Feeding Horses Human Sweets

Here is an overview of some key health issues and risks that can arise if horses eat candy, sugary desserts, and other human sweets:

Choking hazard – Hard candies and sticky, chewy candies can get lodged in a horse’s esophagus, causing choking. Always cut or break candies into very small pieces before feeding.

Laminitis – Excess sugar intake is linked to laminitis, an extremely painful inflammatory hoof condition. Candy has no nutritional benefit and its “empty calories” put horses at risk.

Colic – Too much sugar disrupts healthy hindgut fermentation, which can trigger gas, diarrhea, and colic. Molasses in treats should be limited.

Obesity – Like humans, horses can become overweight and obese when fed too many calories from sugary junk foods, leading to problems like insulin resistance.

GI upset – Artificial sweeteners and unfamiliar ingredients may cause digestive issues like diarrhea. Always transition foods gradually.

Tooth decay – Excess sugar impacts dental health in horses, just as it does in people. Stick to low-sugar treats.

Nutritional imbalance – Candy provides no nutritional benefits and throws off balanced rations.

Life-threatening toxicity – Chocolate, xylitol, and some other candy ingredients can be fatal even in small amounts.

Are dextrose, maltodextrin and corn syrup safe for horses?

Dextrose, maltodextrin and corn syrup are types of sugars derived from corn starch. They are sometimes added to commercial horse treats and feeds. In moderation, these corn-based sugars are generally safe for horses to consume, with some cautions:

– They can contribute “empty calories” without nutrition, potentially leading to obesity.

– Overfeeding may cause hindgut acidosis and laminitis flare-ups in at-risk horses.

– Corn ingredients are common allergens for some sensitive horses. Signs of allergy include itching and hives.

– Too much sugar stresses insulin regulation. Horses with metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance or equine Cushing’s disease require strict limits on sugars.

– Sugary feeds attract rodents, flies and yellow jackets, creating potential pest issues.

While not acutely toxic or harmful in small amounts, corn sweeteners provide no benefit beyond calories and flavor. Limit treats with these added sugars, and balance the diet with ample forage. Check the overall starch and sugar content of your horse’s ration when including sweetened feeds.


In summary, horses should not eat candies, desserts, or other sugary foods meant for human treat. The excess sugar and unhealthy additives found in sweets can pose digestive, hoof, dental and weight issues for horses. While a lick of icing or nibble of a cookie won’t kill a horse, these foods offer no nutritional benefits and could easily cause harm if overindulged. Owners are better off feeding horses fiber-rich hay and occasional treats made specifically for equine health needs. Be very conservative with any sugary human food snacks, and avoid chocolate, xylitol, or other toxic ingredients. Focus treats on natural options like carrots, apples, and nutritious horse cookies to keep your equine companions happy and healthy.

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