Oranges for Treats?

Q. Can horses eat oranges? I just bought a 4-year-old gelding who apparently loves oranges, but I don't want to feed them to him if his digestive system can't handle the citric acid. The young girl who had him fed him an appalling amount of junk food, including Pepsi, Cheetos, candy bars, etc. She also fed him oranges, which seem innocuous enough, but I'd like to know whether or not his system can handle them.


A. There are no reports in the literature about oranges being toxic to horses that I can find. The only toxins in the citrus family seem to be irritants in the peels and leaves that cause a skin problem in some individuals.

As this horse has been eating oranges in the past, it would seem that oranges are not a problem. I would qualify this by stating the obvious that oranges are not the best food for horses! I would also be concerned that if the horse tried to swallow the orange whole, he could choke on it, which is a serious concern.

About the Author

Anthony Knight, BVSc, MS, Dipl. ACVIM

Anthony P. Knight, BVSc, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, is a professor of large animal medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. He received his veterinary degree from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, in 1968. After completing a master’s degree at Colorado State University, he joined the faculty in 1974. His current professional interests include livestock heath, foreign animal diseases, emergency management, and plant toxicology. He has written two books on poisonous plants of animals in North America, and maintains a poisonous plants website for use by anyone wanting poisonous plant information.

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