How Beneficial Bugs Support Your Horse's Digestive System
Your horse's digestive system contains a blend of "good bugs", or beneficial bacterial, that play an important role in keeping your horse healthy. These bacteria help break down food that cannot be digested otherwise, like the fiber in hay. They also help convert food into vital nutrients that produce energy. In this blog, we'll talk about the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics, and how they support your horse's best digestive health.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are just one source of the live, helpful microorganisms found in many equine supplements. You can check your horse's digestive supplement label and see names such as: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Enterococcus lactis. While these may not be the easiest names to pronounce, adding probiotics to your horse's daily diet is a simple, effective way to maintain healthy digestion.
Because probiotics are so essential to good digestion, almost every horse can benefit from supplementation. Many factors, like diet changes, training, illness, aging, can impact your horse's digestive system for the worse. Probiotics work to restore balance to the digestive system during these times of stress. They can help break down nutrients for more energy, a healthier immune system, regular bowel movements, and more! The list of benefits is extensive, especially for your horse's hindgut health.
What Are Prebiotics?
You are more likely to hear about probiotics when you look up digestive aids, but prebiotics are just as important. Prebiotics are a special form of non-digestible dietary fiber that act as a fertilizer for the good bacteria found in your horse’s GI tract. Prebiotics are typically made from simple sugars called oligosaccharides.
When you look up prebiotics, you might see them listed on the nutrition label as: inulin, lactulose, and oligofructose. While prebiotics do not contain live microbes, they work in a unique way by providing energy to probiotics. These non-digestible food ingredients work together with existing good gut bacteria, by providing them with energy and therefore improving the gut environment to their benefit.
Some facts about prebiotics:
- Are helpful to the recipient’s overall health
- Can help stimulate the growth of good bacteria
- Cannot be digested
- Broken down by fermentation in the colon
Which Horses Benefit Most from Digestive Aids?
Many horses can benefit from supplements with probiotics and prebiotics. Whether your horse has a chronic condition, like ulcerative colitis, or works hard as a competitor, digestive support that contains probiotics and prebiotics is shown to promote healthy energy levels, balanced digestion, and nutrient absorption.
Depending on their stress levels, your horse’s support level may vary. For horses that need a higher level of support, such as competition horses or working horses, look for a comprehensive digestive supplement that contains probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes and yeast.
Consistency is key! Make sure you stick with a supplement routine to see the results over time. In this article from The Horse, Kristen Janicki, M.S., explains that "Constant probiotic supplementation appears to produce more positive results than sporadic supplementation."
Putting It All Together: How Do I Choose the Right Supplement?
With so many horse digestive aids on the market, it can be difficult to find the best choice for your horse. When you select a probiotic supplement, look for one that contains live (viable) microbes that are not killed during processing. This is key, as live microbes will help populate your horse's digestive system, including the hindgut.
Assure Guard Gold is our most popular digestive aid. It is a comprehensive formula with premium psyllium (fiber), probiotics, prebiotics, enzymes and yeast designed to manage chronic ulcers, sand, weight loss and support general GI health. Horses of all backgrounds can benefit, including equine athletes, companion horses and senior horses. Is Assure Guard Gold the right digestive aid for your horse? Contact our equine Nutritionist, Brady Karren, for a free 30-minute consult to find out. He can help you find the perfect digestive aid for your horse and troubleshoot any nutrition questions you might have.
You can also find a list of our probiotic and prebiotic containing supplements here. If you need any help choosing the right option for your horse, be sure to reach out to our Animal Health Specialists! We are here to help you. Just give us a call at 1-866-791-3344, reach out by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or Live Chat with us here.
Remember, before you start your horse on any new supplement routine, check with your veterinarian. He or she can answer specific questions about your horse's health. Make sure to also: change feed and hay gradually, monitor your horse's water intake, schedule regular dentals and veterinarian visits. These simple habits are key to a healthy equine digestive system and the overall wellness of your horse.