Milk and dairy products are an integral part of many people’s diet. After all, they provide large amounts of protein, fat and minerals.
In 100 grams of milk alone, there are an astonishing 125 milligrams of calcium and 11 milligrams of magnesium.
Is milk therefore also suitable for horses, or can drinking it even be dangerous? We got to the bottom of this question for you.
In this article you will learn whether horses can drink milk and what alternatives there are. We also show you what you have to pay attention to when feeding and what potential dangers exist.
Are horses allowed to drink milk?
The answer is not as simple as you might hope. Because not all milk is the same.
Usually, the terms “milk” and “dairy products” cover cow’s milk and products made from it.
These are not suitable for horses because of the lactose content. However, there are now numerous plant-based alternatives on the market.
Cow’s milk for horses?
Cow’s milk, or animal milk in general, contains lactose. This is lactose.
At the beginning of their lives, mammals tolerate it without any problems. After all, they feed on their mother’s milk.
Over time, however, this tolerance is lost. Lactose can then cause considerable discomfort.
This is true for humans as well as for horses, dogs and cats.
The consequences of ingesting lactose are usually:
Persistent diarrhea and the destruction of the intestinal flora can already have a negative effect. Colic can even be fatal.
Therefore, you should never give your horse milk containing lactose. Small amounts are often not directly problematic, but can also lead to complaints in sensitive animals.
Milk as a secret tip?
In some forums you can find the tip to give horses milk to drink every day.
This is supposed to help especially with problems with the hooves.
However, the lactose can interfere with digestion, which is often much more serious. In addition, better alternatives to cow’s milk can be found to contribute to health.
This is true even if your horse likes milk.
Lactose-free milk as an alternative
Vegetable milk such as almond milk, oat milk or soy milk differs from cow’s milk in terms of taste and nutrients, but does not contain lactose.
Therefore, it does not cause any discomfort.
As a treat, to stimulate the appetite and to increase fluid intake, these alternatives are therefore ideal.
In addition, unlike cow’s milk, they do not have a mucous effect and can therefore also be drunk during infections and respiratory diseases.
How can lactose-free milk be fed?
Unfortunately, lactose-free or plant-based milk can spoil quickly. It also attracts insects and can become contaminated.
Therefore, it is best to give your horse the milk in very small quantities as a liquid treat and make sure that it is drunk immediately.
Any leftovers should be removed after one hour at the latest.
However, it is better to offer only up to half a liter and give it directly to drink.
If your horse likes milk but is sensitive to dusty hay, you can also use it to bind the dust or wash out the hay with it.
However, it is better to soak or steam the hay beforehand and use lactose-free milk only to enhance the taste.
However, it is impossible to predict whether your horse will like this combination. You can only test to what extent the addition of milk improves appetite and intake.
Alternative liquid treats for horses
If you want to give your horse milk to increase the amount he drinks or to improve the supply of minerals, you can fortify the water.
For the flavor component, honey, apple cider vinegar and sweet feed are recommended.
Added in small amounts, they encourage most horses to drink more. Other options include:
Attempts with peppermint oil and apple flavored electrolytes failed, even though the horses otherwise liked both peppermint treats and apples.
Always add a bucket of plain water even with flavored water. If your animal doesn’t like the taste, it can still drink that way.
Also, adding some vegetable milk to the water can trick the taste buds and lead to increased fluid intake.
Here you have no choice but to test different means of flavoring. After all, your horse’s taste preferences are as individual as your own.
Alternative rewards for your horse
If it is not about the supply of liquid, but about variety and the supply of minerals, you will also find several options for your horse.
Leaves and twigs of fruit and nut trees
If there is an increased need for minerals or an insufficient supply through the diet, the feed can also be enhanced with the missing substances through powder.
Horses and milk
After foaling, milk – especially milk from other animals – is no longer part of the natural diet of horses. Their gastrointestinal tract is not designed for it.
If your animal has ingested a small amount of cow’s milk by mistake or as a treat, this is not immediately dangerous.
However, you should act immediately if complaints arise. Because the sensitive digestion of animals quickly leads to critical conditions.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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