Dandelions: Acceptable for horses?

Dandelions crop up just about everywhere – on lawns, in pastures, even in gardens. Many consider them an annoying weed, while others delight in consuming them as part of a healthy salad. Some horses even seek out dandelions to eat. What if your pasture is riddled withdandelions? Is it OK for your horse to consume them?

Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are not known to be toxic to horses. However, false dandelions (Hypochaeris radicata or Hypochoeris radicata) are thought to cause stringhalt in horses if too many are consumed. Stringhalt is a spasmodic contraction of the lateral flexor tendons in the hind legs, which presents as a sudden flexion of one or both hind legs. False dandelion causes the breakdown of the myelin sheath that covers nerves, causing damage and muscle atrophy. Horses that are less severelyaffected may show signs of incoordination or dragging of the hind hooves. Horses chronically consuming false dandelions may also experience muscle trophy.

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