"Can probiotics help my horse?" This is an extremely common question that many horse owners ask us, especially when their horses have been afflicted with colic or suffer from any type of digestive issues. We all know horses have sensitive stomachs and many horses have suffered, or will suffer from one stomach issue or another.
In order to answer can the question “Can probiotics help my horse”, we need to know the answer to, “What is the cause of your horses’ digestive issues”.
If your horse suffers from any of the following conditions, then most likely they could benefit from a probiotic.
Probiotics have been shown to be beneficial for horses experiencing the following:
- Unhealthy diet – due to quality of forage & hay, high starch or grain
- Stress – due to traveling or competitions
- Age – trouble maintaining weight, inefficiency of digestive system
- Illness – recovering from surgery, or recent antibiotic use
- Foals – helps populate young digestive systems faster
Kelcey Swyers, head nutritionist at Ranch-Way Feeds in Fort Collins, Colorado, and a PhD candidate at Colorado State University. “While research does not yet have a solid recommendation for probiotic supplementation in the equine diet, it cannot be disputed that an owner might see a benefit from offering probiotics to their horses in a real-life setting.”
So what can probiotics do for your horse if they fall into any of the categories mentioned above? Probiotics can manipulate the normal intestinal flora in such a way that is beneficial to the health of the horse. And horses need healthy intestinal flora help keep damaging bacteria, such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli, under control.
Kathleen Crandell, PhD, a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research says There’s no reason to give a probiotic if your horse is healthy, he’s not traveling, he’s holding weight, etc.,” she explains. “Sometimes horse owners will not see a benefit from offering probiotics, and this can simply be because their horse is already healthy on his normal diet, so no additional benefit can be realized.”
If you’re shopping around for a horse probiotic, be sure to read labels and ingredients carefully, and compare dosages and ease of administration.
Lastly, remember that not all probiotics are created equally and while one horse may benefit from one brand of probiotic it may be ineffective in another horse. Even if the bacterial species are the same, there may be other ingredients in the formulation that affect how the product works. Don’t forget to keep in mind that you may not see results right away: “The benefits of administering probiotics to horses can only be seen when given for a prolonged amount of time, and generally when administration of that supplement goes away, so do the benefits,” Swyers says. “So feed according to the manufacturer’s label, and feed for the whole amount of time that your horse could benefit from it.”
At LV Performance, we can a select few brands of probiotics that we know have proven to beneficial to horses. To view our selection of probiotics, click here.