Natural Horse Health Q&A: Why Are Probiotics & Digestive Enzymes Good for My Horse?
Natural probiotics (and digestive enzymes) for horses are important because 1) They help your horse absorb more of the nutrients they are already receiving in hay, grain and bucket feeds; and 2) They help maintain a healthy gut, which is the basis for a healthy horse.
Why does a healthy gut = a healthy horse? Because the horse's intestinal/digestive tract is the largest immune organ in its body. Probiotics play a vital role in supporting the intestinal tract - and therefore its immune health - and preventing disease.
Probiotics may help in the prevention of ulcers in horses by helping to balance the pH of the gut, and are also known to help prevent some gas as well as possibly impaction colics. New research is also suggesting that some cases of laminitis which can lead to founder are due to an unhealthy gut, which cannot digest the food that goes through it properly.
How It All Works
When a horse starts grinding food with his teeth, his mouth releases salivary enzymes, and thus begins that mouthful’s approximately 100-foot journey through the digestive tract. The food travels down the esophagus, enters the stomach and mixes with digestive juices and enzymes, and billions of good microbes begin their work.
The partially broken-down food then enters the small intestine, where most of the nutrients - soluble carbohydrates, along with minerals, fats and proteins - get absorbed into the bloodstream. Insoluble carbohydrates (which are the fiber) are not so easily digested, as well as any undigested soluble carbohydrates, these then pass to the cecum, the “fermentative vat” and the beginning of the large intestine. A variety of live microbes in the cecum break down the remaining food into a viable usable form including absorbable volatile fatty acids, which the horse uses for energy and nutrients.
Without a strong army of beneficial intestinal bacteria, the food moving from stomach to cecum is not “fermented” properly and some remains undigested. When this undigested food hits the gastro-intestinal tract (large and small intestine) it may lead to colic, bloat, or laminitis and increases the possibility of developing food-related allergic conditions when food is not digested properly and remains in the gut too long.
Probiotics Keep the Intestinal Bacteria Populations Flourishing & Balanced
Supplementing horses with natural probiotics (a variety of strains) helps to keep the intestinal bacteria populations flourishing and balanced (as there are good, neutral and bad bacteria that all live in concert in the intestinal tracts of all mammals).
These bacteria can get out of balance quickly when an animal:
- Is stressed
- Has been chemically wormed
- Has had surgery
- Has been on a course of antibiotics
- Has had vaccinations
- Is going through food changes
- Is in competition
Each of these can change the balance of the gut flora from stress, undermining the health of the animal.
Which Probiotics Are the Best? Getting the Proper Strength is Key
The strength of probiotics is measured in Colony Forming Units (CFUs) - often cited as:
- CFU - a measure of viable (live) bacteria or fungi
- CFU/mL (colony forming units per milliliter) - used for liquids
- CFU/g (colony forming units per gram) - used for solids
When selecting a natural probiotic with yeast culture - to either reintroduce good bacteria after a round of antibiotics, or just replenish good gut bacteria - it needs to contain 20 billion CFU per serving of multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, along with specific digestive enzymes to assure proper digestion begins properly so that the probiotics can do their job as well.
Further Reading - Published Articles by Earth Song Ranch
- Healthy Gut, Healthy Horse: How Probiotics Help - Equine Wellness Magazine
- Prebiotics, Probiotics & Yeast for Horses, Dogs & Cats - Natural Horse Magazine
- Pro-Biotics: Bugs You Do Want in Your Horse’s Life - Equine Wellness Magazine
- The Zymes - What they Do, What they Contain & Why You Should Use them
- Balancing the Equine Athlete from Within - HorseBack Magazine & The Horse's Hoof
Questions? We're Here to Help
We know choosing the right natural supplement for your horse can seem daunting. Earth Song Ranch is dedicated to educating our customers because we want you to make the best choice for your horse and your unique needs.
You'll find a variety of information in our published articles and archived newsletters here on our site. But sometimes, you just need to talk a situation out. For those times, we offer private phone consultations.
Consultations are available in the following increments. First-time customers who book an hour consultation receive $25 off your first order of $100 or more.
- 15 minutes - $25
- 30 minutes - $45
- 1 hour - $75
Go here to purchase a phone consultation.
About the Author
Jessica Lynn writes articles for various national and international horse publications. She is an Equine Nutritionist and the owner of Earth Song Ranch, a feed & supplement manufacturer based in Southern California. Jessica has been involved in alternative health care, herbs, homeopathy, alternative health and nutrition for almost 40 years. Contact Jessica at Jessica@earthsongranch.com or phone 951-514-9700. Her web site, www.earthsongranch.com, offers numerous published articles and resources on natural health for horses, dogs, and cats.
"Our miniature horse had some digestive issues and I mentioned the Equine-Zyme Plus to our holistic veterinarian and she said she'd look into the product. She contacted us the next day saying that it looked like a very good product and to get him started on it. We had good results correcting the digestive issues and now the vet is recommending it in her practice." - Melissa G.
"I have had my gelding on Equine-Zyme for over a year now and he recently had surgery. Not once during the entire process, before/during/post surgery, has he had any loose manure or lost any coat condition or weight. Neither has he exhibited any of the symptoms for ulcers. I am positive it is due to being on Equine-Zyme. I always receive compliments on how he looks and he is always a happy guy. He will always be on Equine-Zyme and I recommend this to everyone! " - Kim S
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