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Can Horses and Donkeys Eat Tomatoes?

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Horses and donkeys love eating treats; luckily, they love healthy fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes, understandably, have become a topic of contention between equestrians over whether they are safe for horses and donkeys to eat.

Can horses and donkeys eat tomatoes?

Horses and donkeys can eat ripe, fresh tomatoes in moderation and under supervision. Not all parts of the tomato plant are safe for your animals, so it is important to know the real facts about tomatoes. Tomatoes, even ripe ones, are unfortunately not safe for all horses and donkeys to eat.   

Grey donkey and black horse

You may hear those who say tomatoes of any kind and in any amount are unsafe for your horses or donkeys, but that is not exactly true.

If you want to know the truth about tomatoes and the potential dangers they could pose to your farm friends, then you have come to the right place.

Are Tomatoes Safe for Horses and Donkeys to Eat?

professional farmer feeding donkeys with tomatoes at farm

The tomato fruit itself is safe for horses and donkeys to eat in small amounts and only if it is ripe.

You should never feed your equine animals unripe or rotten tomatoes under any circumstances.

If you recently fed your horse or donkey a few slices or chunks of fresh, ripe tomato, then do not panic!

On the other hand, if your donkey or horse recently consumed tomato plants, unripe tomatoes, or rotten tomatoes, you should immediately contact your veterinarian for advice.

While the tomato fruit is safe, any green part of the tomato plant, including the stem and the leaves, is not safe for horses or donkeys to consume. This is where many people get the idea that tomatoes themselves are not safe for horses or donkeys, but that is not the entire story.

Ripe red tomatoes in the garden.

Are Tomatoes Bad for Horses and Donkeys?

Fresh and ripe tomatoes are not bad for most horses or donkeys in moderation; however, the fruit does not offer any additional benefits over other safer fruits and vegetables.

You can serve tomatoes cooked or raw but always cut them into small pieces to avoid choking events.

Unripe tomatoes contain an unhealthy amount of solanine, an alkaloid that is unsafe for horses, donkeys, and other animals. Ripe tomatoes have much less solanine, making them safer for horses or donkeys to consume in moderation.

Tomatoes are a good fiber source and contain many healthy vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamins A and C, and chromium.

However, tomatoes contain potassium, which is dangerous for horses with hyperkalemic periodic paralysis or HYPP.

unripe green tomatoes in a greenhouse

Are Green Tomatoes OK for Horses and Donkeys to Eat?

The trouble with green tomatoes is that there are two different scenarios that fall on each side of the spectrum.

Unripe green tomatoes are not OK for horses and donkeys to eat, while ripe tomatoes that just happen to be green are safe.

If the tomatoes you have are naturally green through the entire growing and harvesting process, then as long as they are ripe, they are safe for your horse or donkey to consume.

If the green tomato is only green because it has not ripened yet, it is not safe for your farm animals to eat.

If you are ever unsure what type of green tomato you have and you cannot say whether it is ripe or not, then you should avoid feeding it as a treat to your horses or donkeys altogether.

grape tomato plant in the garden

Are Cherry and Grape Tomatoes Safe for Horses and Donkeys?

Cherry and grape tomatoes are safe for horses and donkeys to eat in moderation if the fruit is ripe. It is important to note that grape tomatoes contain more sugar than both cherry and regular tomatoes.

Grape tomatoes contain a noticeable amount of sugar, about 15 grams per 100 grams on average. This means that owners should never feed their insulin-resistant horses or donkeys grape tomatoes.

Tomato plant in the garden

Can Horses and Donkeys Eat Tomato Plants?

Horses and donkeys cannot eat tomato plants because the plants contain the glycoalkaloids solanine and demissine. Unfortunately, these substances are toxic to horses, donkeys, and many other animals, especially in large quantities.

The good news is that it would take a lot of tomato plant consumption to hurt a horse; however, as we all know, horses and donkeys can eat a lot of food in a short time.

In the right circumstances, horses and donkeys could eat easily enough tomato plants to suffer the toxic effects of solanine and demissine.

tomato seeds close-up detail in a wooden spoon

Can They Eat Tomato Seeds?

You should never feed horses or donkeys dried tomato seeds; however, they can eat the tomato seeds inside a fresh tomato. There really is not a good reason to feed horses tomato seeds unless they are inside the ripe tomato you are feeding them.

Signs of Solanine Poisoning in Horses and Donkeys

The following could indicate that your horse or donkey is suffering from solanine poisoning.

  • Pupil dilation
  • Depression and fatigue
  • Convulsing
  • Diarrhea
  • Colic
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Loss of appetite

If your animal is showing these symptoms, especially if they’ve recently eaten tomato plants or unripe tomatoes, you should contact your veterinarian for help as soon as possible.

How to Keep Your Horses and Donkeys Safe from Tomatoes and Tomato Plants

There are several ways you can keep your horses and donkeys safe from the toxic effects of unripe or molded tomatoes and tomato plants.

Secure Your Tomato Plants

Close up view of tomato plants in air-pots in greenhouse.

Consider putting a fence around your tomato plants to keep horses, donkeys, and other animals away from them altogether.

Do Not Throw Discarded Tomato Plants in a Pasture

Do not ever throw old tomato plants into your pasture since the plants are extremely dangerous for your horses and donkeys.

Make Sure Tomatoes Are Ripe

Farmers hands with freshly harvested tomatoes

If you decide to feed your horses or donkeys some tomato treats, make sure the tomatoes are fresh, completely ripe, and not rotten or moldy.

Other Fruits and Vegetables Horses and Donkeys Can Eat

Horses and donkeys can eat a large variety of different fruits and vegetables, so you should not have trouble finding something other than tomatoes to feed them.

Just because you can feed horses and donkeys some tomatoes does not mean you should. Many farm owners prefer to avoid feeding their animals any kind of tomato, which is completely understandable.  

strawberry banana fruits on wood table

The following is a list of fruits and vegetables that are safe for most horses and donkeys to eat in moderation. This list is unsuitable for horses or donkeys suffering from insulin resistance or hyperkalemic periodic paralysis, HYPP.

Apricots (no pit)Carrots
Coreless ApplesSquash
GrapesGreen Beans
BlackberriesSnow Peas

Final Thoughts

Tomatoes are not exactly as dangerous for horses and donkeys as the internet may lead you to believe, but information is key. The truth is that fresh, ripe tomatoes are OK for your donkeys or horses to eat in small amounts, but better fruit and vegetable treat options are available. Unripe tomatoes, rotten tomatoes, or any parts of the tomato plant are always unsafe for your horses and donkeys.