By: Eleanor Kellon, VMD

Microorganisms in your horse's gut aid in digestion, but these little helpers need a boost from time to time with a balanced diet of their own.

As you prepare your foal for weaning, consider adding prebiotics or probiotics to his diet to help him transition to eating only solid food. Maintaining the added supplement during the weaning process can also help the gut handle some of the stress generated during this time.

Using These Products
Either prebiotics (substances to encourage microorganism growth) or probiotics (live microorganisms) can be used in most cases. Saccharomyces yeast is specifically helpful in preventing acidity in the large bowel of horses on high-grain diets. Unfortunately, we don't have much research information to guide the use of these products. Prebiotics based on fermentation products of Lactobacillus have been documented to improve weight gain and feed efficiency. Beyond that, we don't have much equine-specific information to go on.

Dose, however, is a critical factor. Dr. Scott Weese of the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph in Canada is an expert in probiotics. He has estimated that the very minimum effective dose of live microorganisms for a horse would be in the neighborhood of 10 billion CFU. A CFU is a "colony forming unit"-that is, one live bacterium. When you consider that just a teaspoon of colonic fluid can contain as many as 15 million bacteria, it's not too hard to see where that number comes from. Most bacteria are actually killed by stomach acid. If they make it through the stomach, they can quickly multiply, but not too many make it through. If you are considering using a live probiotic product, be sure to check the dose of microorganisms.

Another factor is stability. High-quality human probiotic products not only contain very high numbers of microorganisms (usually more than the 10 billion CFU noted above), but they are also kept refrigerated to prolong the life of the bacteria. Dr. Weese did a study of 13 probiotic products and found that only two actually contained the number and types of bacteria they claimed.

The concerns about dosage and stability can make a prebiotic product a better choice in many instances than a probiotic product. If you are going to use a live-organism probiotic, though, make sure it has a high enough dose and then store it well-sealed in a cool area.

Animal Nutrition Solutions is dedicated to providing you, as a consumer, the education tools you need to make smart decisions when it comes to the nutrition of your dog or horse. We want you to understand our feed labels, as well as competitors, and be able to make an educated decision regarding what your dog or horse needs and what he/she doesn’t.
Animal Nutrition Solutions is committed to providing the best available nutrition to your dog or horse, to supplement what is lacking from commercial feeds. We use the highest quality ingredients in our supplements with the necessary amounts per dose to have the highest efficacy. Animal Nutrition Solutions carries a supplement line has recently been released, featuring Canine Gold for dogs and Equine Mineral Balancer and Equine Mineral Balancer with Joint Support for horses.