Last Updated on May 7, 2022
Have you ever wondered what are the best snacks to feed to horses? Can horses eat cheese and other dairy products? Let’s find out!
Can Horses Eat Cheese?
To find out the answer to can horses eat cheese, first of all, we need to consider what is the normal, natural diet for horses. Horses are non-ruminant herbivores – this means that they eat a diet that consists entirely of plant matter. A horse in the wild will eat mostly grass, and browse other plants, herbs, shrubs, and trees.
The digestive system of a horse is uniquely adapted to enable it to digest this type of food. They will graze for the vast majority of the day, up to 16 hours. The stomach and intestines of the horse are designed to process and digest a constant, slow intake of roughage – this type of food consumption is called trickle feeding.
So, what does the normal diet of a horse actually contain? Let’s take a look at the most common food for horses – grass and hay. This provides energy to the horse in the form of cellulose, which is broken down through a process of fermentation in the large intestines. This is then processed by the digestive system to extract all the nutrition a horse needs.
When the question of can horses eat cheese comes up, you will notice straight away that cheese is very different to grass and hay. Cheese is a dairy product, made from milk produced by animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats. Milk contains a substance called lactose, and this can cause problems for horses.
The digestive system of a horse is not adapted to digest lactose, because dairy products are not consumed by horses. This means that horses are considered to be lactose intolerant, and should not eat anything that is made from milk.
So, unfortunately, horses cannot eat cheese. They also cannot eat other dairy products such as ice cream, yogurt, and milk.
If a horse eats a small amount of cheese, it may not cause any harm. But all horses are different, and many will not be able to tolerate even a little bit of cheese or other dairy products. A horse that has eaten too much cheese may suffer from digestive problems such as diarrhea or colic.
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Can Horses Eat Vegan Cheese?
You might be tempted to feed vegan cheese to horses, as this is a non-dairy product that is made without milk. However, vegan cheese can contain high levels of salt and other additives that may be harmful to horses.
This means that vegan cheese should not be fed to horses.
Can Horses Drink Milk?
When a foal is born, one of the first things it will do is suckle milk from its mother. This is the main food supply for a horse for the first six months of its life before it starts to consume grass and other forage.
But does this mean that adult horses can drink milk? The answer is no, and there is a good reason why adult horses are not able to drink milk.
As a horse gets older, it loses the ability to digest dairy products. The digestive system of a foal is able to produce lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk, enabling it to be converted to energy.
During the first year or two of a horse’s life, the digestive system slowly stops producing lactase, as it is no longer required. This is because the foal will be weaned from its mother, and starts to rely on forage for energy rather than milk.
So an adult horse will not be able to digest lactose in milk, and may even suffer from digestive problems if they drink milk.
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Can Young Horses Eat Cheese?
Younger horses have a higher tolerance for eating cheese, as their digestive system is better equipped to digest the lactose in milk products.
Although cheese might not be as harmful for younger horses, you may find that most of them do not enjoy the taste and texture of cheese. Young horses might have a nibble at a bit of cheese, but they will prefer sweeter treats to cheese.
Also, cheese is not a healthy snack for horses, as it is high in fat and can contain a lot of salt and other additives. It is better to stick to dairy-free treats for horses, such as fruits and vegetables.
Summary – Can Horses Eat Cheese?
So, as we have learned, horses should not eat cheese and other dairy products, as their digestive system is not able to digest the lactose in milk products. Horses are non-ruminant herbivores, and should only be fed plant material. Any other types of food may cause severe digestive problems, like colic or diarrhea.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about can horses eat cheese! Does your horse like eating weird and unusual things like cheese? Or maybe you’ve got a question about the best snacks to feed to horses? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Can Horses Eat Dairy Products?
Horse are not able to eat dairy products. This is because the sugars in dairy products are in the form of lactose, which is not able to be digested by the equine digestive system. Horses should only be fed plant matter, where sugar is in the form of cellulose.
Can Horses Eat Cheese Puffs?
Most horses would probably enjoy tucking into a handful of cheese puffs, but are these snacks good for horses? While a few cheese puffs will not harm your horse, it is not a good idea to feed them too many. Cheese puffs are highly processed and packed full of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives that are not good for horses to eat.
Can Horses Eat Cheese Crackers?
Cheese crackers can be fed to horses, but remember to take the cheese off first! Most horses enjoy eating crackers, and they make a tasty, low-calorie treat for horses. It is a good idea to stick to wholegrain crackers that are made from organic ingredients, to reduce the amount of chemicals and additives your horse is consuming.
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE