Most goat owners already know that, while goats typically subsist on a diet of hay, grass and various other fibrous plant matter they also eat various fruits and veggies occasionally, particularly when owners hand them over as treats or supplements.
They can eat all kinds of things, but contrary to popular belief goats cannot eat everything, even some things that you might expect to be healthy!
Let’s look at eggplants, for instance. Can goats eat eggplants, and are they safe?
No, eggplants are not safe for goats to eat. Eggplant fruit and all parts of the plant contain a toxin called solanine which can be deadly for goats. The fruit usually has minimal concentrations of the toxin, but it is still problematic for goats.
Believe it or not, eggplants are members of the nightshade family, with such horrible relatives as deadly nightshade, a plant well-known for its lethality.
And while eggplants aren’t quite that bad, no part of the plant is something that you should serve to your goats, even the relatively innocuous fruit.
Naturally, there’s much more to tell on this subject, and I will get into all of it below…
Eggplant, and Other Nightshade Plants, are Dangerous for Goats
Like I said, eggplants belong to the nightshade family, which is quite a large family of plants that includes various other vegetables we eat on a regular basis, including tomatoes, potatoes and all kinds of peppers.
But no matter what kind of plant belongs to this family, whether it’s a tree or a bush or even a low-growing and spreading vine, almost all have toxins which are harmful for goats and in many cases most other animals as well.
The trick is knowing in which parts of a given plant the toxins are concentrated in, and at what times. For instance, all parts of the tomato plant contain the toxin, as do young, green tomatoes.
Ripe tomatoes do not, or at least they contain only truly trace amounts. The same can be said of peppers.
Potatoes, on the other hand, are toxic throughout, root and vine, but the tubers that we eat only start generating solanine if they are directly exposed to sunlight.
Concerning eggplants, all parts of the plant are dangerous, and the young developing fruit which looks like an egg (that has given the plant its name) contain high levels of the toxin which dissipates in time as it matures.
It should be noted that these toxins are still present in the ripe fruit.
Nightshade Plants Contain Solanine, a Toxin
The toxin in question is called solanine, which is a glycoalkaloid poison that’s very dangerous to goats. In fact, goats, more than most other mammals, seem particularly sensitive to this toxin.
If goats eat any part of an eggplant, from the stems or vines to the leaves and, sometimes, even the fruit itself, it can make them gravely sick or even kill them.
Sometimes significant solanine poisoning that is nonetheless survivable can entail lifelong injury for an affected goat.
The trick, with eggplant, compared to other nightshade family vegetables is that the flesh of the fruit is nominally safe for goats so long as it is fully ripened.
This has led some owners to advocate for feeding eggplant to goats in very small quantity.
I disagree vociferously with this assessment: the toxicity level of eggplants is variable, and what might be nothing more than a significantly upset stomach for a person could be a fatal encounter for a goat in the same quantities.
It’s just not worth the risk when there are so many other foods and vegetables particularly that we can feed our goats with absolutely no risk of such a disastrous outcome.
Will Raw Eggplant Hurt Goats?
Yes, if your goats eat raw eggplant it might result in poisoning.
Though the solanine levels in the flesh of an eggplant fruit are low, they’re never zero, and if goats eat enough of it, or eat it repeatedly over a period of time, it can still result in poisoning.
Can You Cook Eggplant to Give it to Goats Safely?
No, sorry. Cooking eggplant does not significantly reduce the levels of solanine present in any part of the plant, including the flesh.
It will not make it any safer for your goats.
Are Any Parts of an Eggplant Safe for Goats to Eat?
No, none are. All parts of the eggplant, from the roots, stems and vines to the leaves, the calyx of the fruit and the flesh of the fruit itself contain varying levels of solanine.
The flesh of a mature fruit contains the lowest levels even though they are still present, but green parts of the plant, and particularly the leaves and roots contain a lot of toxin and can easily make goats deathly ill if they eat any amount of them.
Particularly, goats that eat large amounts of the leaves and stems are at high risk of death from solanine poisoning.
Symptoms of Solanine Toxicosis in Goats
So what exactly does solanine do to goats if they eat it any part of an eggplant? Solanine is often said to be atropine-like in terms of its toxicity.
Be on the lookout for a sharp loss of appetite, severe diarrhea or vomiting, lethargy, drowsiness, inability to stand, dilated pupils, and overall behavioral changes.
High dosages will result in confusion and loss of coordination, central nervous system depression, a dropping heart rate, and eventually death.
If your goats eat any significant amount of an eggplant that contain decent concentrations of solanine, you will notice symptoms pretty quickly if you pay attention to them.
But, one thing to keep in mind, and part of what makes nightshade plants so dangerous for goats, is that the early symptoms are commonly mistaken for other, lesser and more mundane health issues.
The symptoms that show might get suddenly worse as the poison continues to work on the goat’s body, and by then it might be too late.
Eggplant is Very Dangerous for Baby Goats
This should go without saying, but eggplant is dramatically more dangerous for baby goats than adults.
Should never, ever give baby goats any quantity of eggplant, and be especially cautious of letting them go near eggplant or any nightshade plants.
Considering that the systems of a baby goat are still developing and that they weigh so much less compared to adult goats toxins like solanine are even more devastating for them.
What Should You Do if Your Goats Eat Eggplant?
If you know, or suspect, that your goats have eaten eggplant or any part of the plant itself, like the leaves, stems, etc., don’t panic but be prepared to take action.
If you think your goats only got a little nibble of the fruit itself, they will probably be fine. Just keep an eye out for any of these symptoms above, particularly a loss of appetite, seeming drowsiness, and dilation of the pupils.
If things seem to be progressing, call your vet right away.
But if you know or suspect that the goats have been eating directly from the plant itself, things will probably go bad quickly.
Call your vet straight away, and do what they say but be prepared to take the goat to the vet at once. With an antidote and supporting care, solanine poisoning is survivable for goats if caught early enough.
Tim is a farm boy with vast experience on homesteads, and with survival and prepping. He lives a self-reliant lifestyle along with his aging mother in a quiet and very conservative little town in Ohio. He teaches folks about security, prepping and self-sufficiency not just through his witty writing, but also in person.