Can Horses Eat Cheese?

As horse owners, we want to ensure our equine companions receive the best care and nutrition. But when it comes to treats, we often wonder if certain human foods are safe for horses. One such question that arises is, can horses eat cheese? In this guide, we will delve into the nutritional composition of cheese, discuss its potential benefits and risks for horses, and provide guidelines for offering cheese as an occasional treat. Let’s find out if cheese is a suitable addition to your horse’s diet.

Nutritional Needs of Horses

Before we explore whether cheese is safe for horses, it’s essential to understand the dietary requirements of our equine friends. Horses are herbivores and thrive on a diet primarily composed of grass and forage. Their nutritional needs include a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals to maintain optimal health.

Cheese Composition: What’s in Cheese?

Cheese is a dairy product made from milk and contains various nutrients. It is typically high in fat, protein, calcium, and phosphorus. Additionally, cheese may also contain lactose, a sugar found in milk.

Is Cheese Safe for Horses?

Feeding cheese to horses can be safe if done in moderation. While cheese is not a natural part of a horse’s diet, offering a small amount as an occasional treat is unlikely to cause harm. However, it’s essential to consider certain factors and potential risks associated with feeding cheese to horses.

Moderation and Portion Control

As with any treat, moderation is key when offering cheese to horses. Due to its high fat content, overindulgence in cheese can lead to digestive upset or weight gain. Offering small portions and limiting cheese treats to occasional rewards can prevent such issues.

Potential Benefits of Cheese for Horses

While cheese is not a dietary necessity for horses, it does contain nutrients that could be beneficial in small amounts. For instance, the protein and calcium content may contribute to muscle and bone health.

Alternatives to Cheese Treats

If you prefer to avoid offering cheese to your horse, several alternative treats can still provide enjoyment. Fruits like apples and carrots are popular choices, as well as vegetables such as celery or sweet potatoes.

Cheese and Lactose Intolerance in Horses

Horses, like some humans, may be lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance means that the horse’s body has difficulty digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk. If your horse shows signs of digestive discomfort after consuming dairy products, it’s best to avoid offering cheese.

Allergic Reactions and Precautions

As with any new food, some horses may have allergic reactions to cheese. If you decide to introduce cheese into your horse’s diet, monitor them closely for any adverse effects and discontinue feeding it if any issues arise.

Consulting a Veterinarian

Before making any significant changes to your horse’s diet, including introducing new treats like cheese, it’s crucial to consult with your veterinarian. They can provide personalized advice based on your horse’s specific dietary needs and health conditions.

What Foods Horses Cannot Eat?

Horses have a sensitive digestive system, and there are several foods that can be harmful to them. Some foods horses cannot eat include:

  1. Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to horses and can lead to serious health issues.
  2. Avocado: Avocado contains a substance called persin, which is toxic to horses and can cause heart and respiratory problems.
  3. Onions and Garlic: Onions and garlic can cause anemia in horses and should be avoided.
  4. Potatoes and Tomatoes: These contain solanine, a toxic compound that can be harmful to horses.
  5. Caffeine: Caffeinated beverages or foods with caffeine, like coffee or tea, should never be given to horses.
  6. Moldy or Spoiled Foods: Moldy or spoiled foods can contain toxins that can be dangerous to horses.

Are Horses Allowed Dairy?

Horses are lactose intolerant, which means their bodies have difficulty digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk. Therefore, feeding dairy products, including milk and cheese, to horses is not recommended as it can lead to digestive issues.

Can My Horse Eat Bread?

While horses can eat small amounts of bread as an occasional treat, it is not an ideal food for them. Bread contains high levels of starch and sugar, which can lead to digestive upset and weight gain if fed in excess. It’s best to offer healthier treats like fruits or vegetables instead.

Can My Horse Eat Ice Cream?

Feeding ice cream to horses is not recommended. Ice cream is high in sugar and fat, which can be harmful to horses’ sensitive digestive systems. Additionally, the cold temperature of ice cream can cause discomfort and potentially lead to colic. It’s best to stick to horse-appropriate treats and avoid feeding them human foods like ice cream.


In conclusion, while horses can eat cheese in moderation, it is not a necessary or vital part of their diet. Cheese can be an occasional treat if your horse enjoys it and shows no adverse reactions. Always prioritize a balanced diet of forage and suitable horse feed, and remember that treats should never replace the essential nutrition horses require. By making informed decisions and considering your horse’s individual needs, you can ensure their well-being and happiness as valued members of your equestrian family.