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Can Horses Eat Chocolate?

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When obtaining a new horse or even looking to find new information on your current one it is important to know the basics, knowing what they like/dislike, the foods available for them to eat as well as keeping them healthy and happy.

This article will give a complete rundown on a specific type of food and whether horses can eat it or not, this food? you guessed it, chocolate, this article will get you up to date on the essentials!

Important notes: If your horse/long has ingested chocolate either by accident or through food it is important to see a veterinarian right away if you notice any abnormal behavior or sickness.

Is chocolate bad for horses?

Chocolate is not good for horses to eat. One of the main ingredients in chocolate, cocoa, contains the chemical theobromine, due to a horse-sensitive digestive system this can cause serious illness and in large doses fatality.

horses inside a stable

Chocolate, a wildly loved delicacy is enjoyed by millions of people across the world. Chocolate is made from cocoa beans often found in tropical places including the Caribbean, or Puerto Rico also could be found in parts of the United States if locally grown on farms.

This cocoa is taken from their shell and put into piles where they are crushed and infused with sugars and syrups to get the product, chocolate. Different types of chocolate use differing mixtures of milk, cream and other products but they all contain Cocoa.

Cocoa contains the chemical theobromine, due to a horse-sensitive digestive system this can cause serious illness and in large doses fatality. Too much theobromine in a horse’s system may lead to;

  • Internal bleeding
  • Colic (abdominal abnormality)
  • Seizures
  • Heart attacks

Types of chocolate and their theobromine amounts

Chocolate TypeAmount of theobromine
Dark chocolate1oz has about 60mg
Milk chocolate1oz has about 130-150mg
White chocolate1oz has about 0.25mg
Chocolate candies1oz about 0.25-300mg(depends on amount)
Chocolate chip cookies1 cookie is about 25-50mg(depends on amount)

Differing Types of Chocolate

Dark Chocolate

dark chocolate chunk on the table

Dark chocolate, originating in South America has become wildly popular since around 1900bc when it was first discovered. Being around for over 3000years this chocolate is used in a  variety of things including, desserts, drinks, cooking, and more!

In ancient times it was used for both medicinal and ceremonial purposes by the Aztecs and Mayans. Made with 50-90% cacao, this chocolate is sweet but has a much richer and solid taste than its varying kinds such as milk, and white chocolate.

Due to theobromine, a toxic chemical found in chocolate mainly cocoa, these chemicals can cause extreme illness in horses in high amounts and even in small amounts may cause fatality.

Dark chocolate is around 60 milligrams of theobromine per 1oz of chocolate. Even 0.3 ounces of chocolate cause some serious complications in horses. (source)

Milk Chocolate

pieces of milk chocolate in a transparent bowl on a table cloth

Milk chocolate, originating from Switzerland, has grown wildly popular across the world. Being used in anything from desserts, drinks, to cooking and decor. Coming alive in 1876, this chocolate was created by the swiss chocolatier, Daniel Peter.

Similar to that of dark chocolate, this contains theobromine chemical as well, although, again creating an amazing taste to humans can be fatal and cause serious illness in horses, especially to their sensitive digestive systems, it is important to not feed horses these chocolates.

Milk chocolate may contain as much as 130-150mg of theobromine in even one ounce of chocolate. This can be deadly to horses. (source)

White Chocolate

stack of white chocolate pieces on a white platform

White chocolate, is considerably much safer for animals, including horses but is still not recommended. (source)

Originating in Switzerland, similar to milk chocolate. horses can not eat white chocolate, white chocolate is still chocolate and therefore is not good for animals and especially horses to eat.

Although still chocolate, white chocolate has considerably lower amounts of theobromine than other types including milk and dark chocolate. About one ounce contains about 0.25mg of theobromine.

Chocolate Candies

chocolate candies in different shape on a table mat

Chocolate candies, the concept growing popular in the early 20th century. During World War 1. These candy bars were produced and shipped to the U.S. army in attempts for sustaining energy without taking long trips for meals and the lack of fresh food and produce to be consumed.

These were 40-pound bars of chocolate and since then have traveled everything from the United States to the United Kingdom. Popular as ever today comes to a wide variety of shapes, sizes, favors, and distributors.

These candies may also contain any type of chocolate including the common ones listed above. These candies could be stuffed with anything from dried fruits to cream to even more chocolate!

Due to this wide variety and inclusion of chocolate, it is not able to be consumed by horses seeing as it is still a chocolate product.

Of course, this depends on the kind and the amount of chocolate but overall the amount of theobromine is different

Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate chip cookies on a wooden saucer

Chocolate chip cookies, originating in Massachusetts during the 1920s these cookies have become widely famous across the globe. Originally made by Ruth Wakefield who had run the Toll House bakery famously.

Overall due to the containment of chocolate these chocolate chip cookies are not a viable option to give to horses for consumption unless the chocolate is taken out and different ingredients are used, such as a specially made horse treat, recipes can be found online or in other articles!

These cookies are mainly made of sugars and flour but contain the component of chocolate, this kind of chocolate can differ as well it is often not a good idea to feed horses any type of chocolate especially in cookies due to the increased sugar content and appearance of chocolate.

show horse and its rider won a prize

Chocolate and Show Horses

As we have determined, chocolate and horses are not such a good mix, even in small doses, this treat could be considered fatal. However, did you know a show horse and chocolate mixing could be a legal issue?

In fact, it could get you banned from showing or competing with your horse in many disciplines. For race horses, this is particularly true.

One study found that if a racehorse is given chocolate before a race would give them an advantage over those without. This is due to both the presence of theobromine and, possibly caffeine.

According to PetMD, a bag of M&Ms contains around 184 milligrams of theobromine.

The study mentioned above analyzed a urine sample of a horse who was given M&M’s. It revealed that theobromine had stayed in the horse’s system longer than in humans.

The study was shown that this horse would have and eventually when the experiment was conducted has done better in the race with a  potential of winning over other candidates.

The chocolate had increased the energy levels of these horses and overall made them more in tune with the race.

When coming to this conclusion many racing tracks and competitions had banned the use of horses consuming small doses of chocolate before a race, and in some cases may even test urine samples if a problem occurs or is even suspected.

Knowing this information it may be safer to not feed your horse chocolate. This goes to show that small amounts may be acceptable but it’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid the risks. Be careful when knowing this if having a racehorse! Good luck and stay safe!