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Can Horses Eat Cabbage? What You Need to Know!

Nicole Cosgrove

May 23, 2021

Horses happily eat many fruits and vegetables as healthy treats and supplements to their diet. However, it is essential to remember that just because they can eat most of these, that doesn’t mean that they can have everything that we enjoy.

Vegetables like cabbage are often planted in our gardens for a late summer harvest and might be easily accessible to your horses. If that is the case, it is helpful to know: Can horses eat cabbage? Is cabbage safe for horses? The answer is no, horses should not eat cabbage.

In this article, we discuss why horses cannot eat cabbage, the potential dangers of feeding them vegetables like cabbage, and what to do if they overeat it. If you are looking for a healthy solution to give your horses, there are other vegetables that your horse will be happy to eat.

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Can Horses Eat Cabbage?

noriker horse
Image Credit: Andrea Bohl from Pixabay

Cabbage is one of the few vegetables that horses need to avoid.

You should not give horses any vegetables within the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family. These plants are typically called “mustards” and can be dangerous for horses to consume. The plant family also includes vegetables like Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Do not feed any of these vegetables to your horse.

Dangers of Cabbage for a Horse

Scientists have found that cruciferous plants like broccoli and Brussels sprouts can cause intestinal gas in mammals that consume it. Most of us probably already know this after eating a side dish of broccoli or cauliflower soup. However, for horses, it isn’t just the smell that ends up being unpleasant. The way that a horse’s digestive system is laid out means that for them, a bit of gas isn’t just uncomfortable, but it can cause tremendous pain.

Too much cabbage can result in gas-related colic, and overconsumption of the leaves on cabbage can lead to quite a few health problems, possibly even resulting in death.

What to Do If Your Horse Over-Consumes Cabbage

Horses have such a long intestinal tract that the pain caused by gas can last for a long time and become excruciating. If you believe that your horse is suffering from gas-related colic, there are things you can do to help ease their pain.

Start by getting them to lie down. Although some people will argue that getting a horse to lay down could lead to internal displacements, this is unlikely. They should be in this position so they don’t hurt themselves standing up while in so much pain.

If you begin to notice any abnormal behaviors in your horse or an increase in their pain, have the horse stand up. Go for a leisurely walk with them around their paddock. It should help release the pain by working the gas bubbles through their system.

If the pain doesn’t seem to decrease or go away, then call your veterinarian. They may have straightforward advice for you to follow, or they might want you to schedule an emergency appointment to come out and see your horse. They can prevent gas colic from becoming severe to the point of fatality as long as they catch it early enough.

Once you have dealt with the situation, ensure that you rid their diet of any future cabbage. Make sure you don’t have any planted near fences so they can lean over and eat it. Most importantly, do not give it to them as a snack.

Napa Cabbage

Other Options for Healthy Treats for Horses

Since you can’t feed horses cabbage, you may be wondering if there are any other healthy treats that you can give them. Horses can eat most fruits and vegetables. If you want to give them a special treat, consider things like:

  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Grapes
  • Cantaloupe
  • Pumpkin
  • Snow peas
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas

Although horses can eat all of these, it is best to cut them into smaller, bite-sized pieces to reduce the risk of your horse choking on them. Most horses thoroughly chew their food before swallowing, but sometimes, young ones can get too excited and try to gulp it down whole.

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In Summary

Horses should not eat cabbage. If there is any chance for them to sneak some from a nearby garden, ensure that they don’t get that opportunity. Do not give it to them as a snack nor any other gas-inducing vegetable from the Brassicaceae family.

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Featured Image Credit: Eric Prouzet, Unsplash

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.