Wild pony running through ferns

Ferns are a type of plant that is often used as decorative plants in gardens and homes. They are generally considered to be non-toxic to humans and animals, but it is important to be aware of any potential risks when it comes to our four-legged friends. So, are ferns toxic to horses?

In this article, we will explore the question of whether or not ferns are toxic to horses and what you should consider if you have ferns in your garden or home and own horses.

Are Ferns Toxic to Horses?

There are over 12,000 species of ferns, and most of them are not toxic to horses. In fact, many species of ferns are actually quite beneficial for horses, as they can provide a source of nutrition and hydration.

However, there are a few species of ferns that can be toxic to horses if ingested, so it is important to be aware of these potential risks.

Some species of ferns that can be toxic to horses include:

  • Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum): This species of fern is found in many parts of the world and is known to be toxic to horses if ingested in large quantities. Bracken fern contains a number of toxic compounds, including ptaquiloside, which can cause a number of serious health problems in horses, including anemia, weight loss, and even death.
  • Western sword fern (Polystichum munitum): This species of fern is native to the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and is also known to be toxic to horses if ingested in large quantities. Western sword fern contains a number of toxic compounds, including sapogenins, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in horses.
  • Asparagus fern (Asparagus sprengeri): This species of fern is often used as a decorative plant in gardens and homes, but it can be toxic to horses if ingested. Asparagus fern contains a number of toxic compounds, including sapogenins, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in horses.

It is important to note that ferns are not typically toxic to horses if ingested in small quantities. However, if a horse ingests a large quantity of any of the toxic ferns listed above, it can lead to serious health problems and even death. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the risks and take precautions to ensure that your horses do not have access to these toxic ferns.

Two Dartmoor Ponies on Dartmoor England in the green ferns
Two Dartmoor Ponies on Dartmoor England in the green ferns

What to Do if Your Horse Ingests a Toxic Fern

If you suspect that your horse has ingested a toxic fern, it is important to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. Symptoms of fern toxicity in horses may include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • weakness
  • difficulty breathing

In severe cases, fern toxicity can lead to anaemia, weight loss, and even death.

If you are unable to get to a veterinarian immediately, you can try to induce vomiting in your horse by administering a small amount of hydrogen peroxide. However, this should only be done as a temporary measure and you should still seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

Preventing Fern Toxicity in Horses

The best way to prevent fern toxicity in horses is to be aware of the potential risks and take steps to ensure that your horses do not have access to toxic ferns. If you have ferns in your garden or home and own horses, it is important to identify any toxic species and either remove them or ensure that they are out of reach of your horses.

In addition, it is a good idea to regularly check your property for any toxic plants that may have been introduced by animals or wind. If you find any toxic plants, it is important to remove them immediately and keep them away from your horses.

Overall, most species of ferns are not toxic to horses and can even provide a source of nutrition and hydration for them. However, there are a few species of ferns that can be toxic if ingested in large quantities, so it is important to be aware of the potential risks and take steps to prevent fern toxicity in horses. By taking these simple precautions, you can help keep your horse safe and healthy.

White horse grazing in the field next to the ferns
White horse grazing in the field next to the ferns

Safeguarding your horse

In your horse’s environment. It is also important to provide your horses with access to plenty of clean, fresh water and a balanced diet that includes a variety of hay, grasses, and other forage. This will help ensure that they are getting the nutrition they need and reduce the risk of them ingesting any potentially toxic plants.

It is important to monitor your horse’s health regularly and be aware of any changes in behaviour or appetite that could indicate a problem. By being proactive about your horse’s health, you can help prevent fern toxicity and other potential problems.

Additionally, it is important to talk to your veterinarian about how to recognize the symptoms of fern toxicity and what to do if your horse ingests a toxic fern. With the right knowledge and precautions, you can help keep your horses safe from any potential risks associated with ferns.

In conclusion

Finally, it is important to remember that not all species of ferns are toxic to horses. Many species of ferns can actually provide a healthy source of nutrition and hydration for horses. If you are unsure whether the ferns in your environment are toxic or not, it is best to talk to an expert who can help determine which species of ferns should be avoided. With the right knowledge and precautions, you can ensure that your horses stay safe and healthy.

The bottom line is that fern toxicity in horses can be a serious issue if not addressed properly. It is important to be aware of the potential risks and take precautions to ensure that your horses do not have access to toxic species of ferns.

Additionally, it is important to provide your horses with a balanced diet and fresh water, as well as to monitor their health regularly.

Finally, it is important to talk to your veterinarian about how to recognize the symptoms of fern toxicity and what steps you should take if your horse ingests a toxic plant. With the right knowledge and precautions, you can help keep your horses safe from any potential risks associated with ferns.