According to the World Health Organisation, a Probiotic is a ‘live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’.
Probiotics contain an actual live microbe or organism that is fed to the horse, it lives and multiplies in the horse’s gut and benefits the horse by improving the intestinal environment and function.
In contrast, the scientific definition of a Prebiotic is ‘a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit’.
A Prebiotic is a substance that either feeds the beneficial organisms in the gut or supplies growth factors that stimulate them.
So, a PRO-biotic is the live organism whereas a PRE-biotic feeds or helps the organisms grow and multiply.
A good quality Probiotic at an adequate dose can help your horse by improving the function and health of the horse’s gut.
The microbes in the Probiotic supplement need to be able to survive the journey through the stomach and resist the digestive enzymes, they then go on to adhere to the bowel wall where they will colonise and multiply, helping the horse by inhibiting the growth of disease-causing bacteria and improve fermentation of fibre and foodstuffs.
Studies on the effects of Probiotics in horses are few and far between, however studies in humans and other animals suggest they can be of great benefit. They have been shown to decrease the number of harmful bacteria in the gut making it easier for the animal to fight off disease. Also treated animals have been more efficient with their feed utilisation with increased growth rates. Studies in human and dogs have also shown them to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the intestines.
You might consider feeding a Probiotic when the horse is:
👉 Undergoing any stressful event
👉 Having health issues
👉 On medication especially antibiotics that damage gut microorganisms
👉 Having trouble holding weight or has digestive upsets such as gas, bloating, colic or diarrhoea
👉 Older horses that need help with digestion and absorption
👉 For foals and young horses while they are establishing a healthy gut microflora
👉 Recovering after any illness or injury
👉 Where the diet is changing or property changes
👉 Travel and competition
Anytime the horse is subject to stress or is suffering from health issues, probiotics could be considered as an additional health boost to better enable the body to recover and heal and to improve digestive function and feed utilisation.