Probiotics have been studied for more than a century. The horse’s gut is so complex. The colon and cecum are large fermentation chambers inhabited by a diverse microflora consisting of bacteria, Protozoa, and fungi. The intestinal microflora has enormous impact on health and performance. Problems can occur if out of whack:
• inflammatory bowel disease
• ...the list is endless.
Stress such as those associated with travel and competition, can have an effect. Going on the road tends to disrupt the horse’s routine:
• may not drink as much
• may be getting different hay or grasses
• anxiety may keep him off his feed entirely for a time
Also, stress produces measurable changes in levels of hormones, body temperature, immune responses, heart rate and other functions, all of which may cause the populations of beneficial bacteria to drop.
Does your horse need a probiotic?
Although research into probiotics for horses is still ongoing, there is general agreement that they can be useful in the following ways:
• To give young digestive systems a head start. Foals acquire their intestinal flora from their environment—that’s one reason why they sometimes eat manure. A probiotic may help populate the young digestive system more quickly.
• To aid recovery from illness or infection in horses who have received oral antibiotics. Medications that kill harmful bacteria sometimes do collateral damage to beneficial organisms. After the course of antibiotics is finished, a probiotic may aid in faster recovery.
• To compensate for the effects of stress. Dietary changes, travel and/or competition can put stress on a horse’s system. To give the probiotics time to colonize, it is best to start administration two to three days ahead of the stressful event and continue until it is over.
• To reduce digestive upset in horses susceptible to chronic diarrhea and/or mild colic. Probiotics may stabilize the microflora and promote a healthier environment in the gut. They may also be a good preventive measure in horses who have experienced serious colic.
• To help old or unthrifty horses better utilize nutrients. A probiotic may improve the efficiency of digestion and aid nutrient absorption in aged horses and others who have trouble maintaining weight.
With so many companies marketing Probiotics how do you know what is helping or working? A Probiotic should be micro-encapsulated. If not, it will not make it into the foregut let alone to the hind gut. And the CFUs (colony forming units) need to be in the billions or it won't do a bit of good.
Check out Performance Probiotics with bacteria, enzymes, and fungi. Micro-encapsulated and time released. 8.74 billion CFU per ounce. Lots of bang for your buck!