Probiotics: Good Bugs for Healthy Horses

courtesy of SmartPak

Healthy digestion is essential to your horse’s well-being, which is why giving your horse a daily digestive supplement with probiotics is a smart choice.

Your horse’s hindgut contains microorganisms that are often referred to as “good bugs” because they play many important roles in keeping your horse healthy. They break down food ingredients that wouldn’t be able to be digested otherwise, like the fiber in hay, and help produce energy and vitamins for the body.

Probiotics are sources of these live, beneficial microorganisms that can be found in many digestive supplements. A few examples of probiotics that you may see in supplements include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Enterococcus lactis. While pronouncing the names of these microorganisms may not be easy, providing them daily in your horse’s diet is a simple way to help maintain the health of their hindgut!

Because healthy digestion is vital to their well-being and performance, many horses can benefit from digestive support. Plus, many common barn events, such as diet changes, training, illness, and even aging can cause your horse’s digestive system to fall out of balance. Unfortunately, an unbalanced digestive system can result in everything from minor problems like a dull coat and a grumpy attitude to serious issues like weight loss, diarrhea, ulcers, and colic. And because 65% of your horse’s immune system is in his digestive tract, poor digestive function can also lead to weakened immunity. That’s why whether your horse is a retired senior, a performance horse, or anything in between, daily support from a supplement with probiotics may be a smart choice for his digestive health.

A basic digestive supplement that simply provides probiotics is a good option to consider for most horses, and the majority supplements found in digestive health categories do offer these good bugs. However, if your horse is dealing with excess stress from factors like training, competition, feed changes or travel, or if they are in their golden years, it may be beneficial to look for a more comprehensive formula that also includes ingredients like prebiotics. Prebiotics are sources of non-digestible, soluble fiber that serve as food for the good bugs, keeping them healthy so that they can perform their important role in the digestive process. Other ingredients to keep in mind when you’d like to offer a higher level of support include enzymes and yeast.

Many horse owners also keep digestive support pastes on hand so that they can add extra probiotics and other helpful ingredients during short-term periods of excess stress, such as when a new shipment of hay starts to be fed or when you and your horse head out for a day trip.

Smart management practices like dental care, a proper deworming program, making hay and feed changes gradually, and monitoring your horse’s water intake are all key to keeping your horse’s hindgut healthy.

This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, and is purely educational. Consult your veterinarian regarding specific questions about your horse’s health.