How to Select Probiotics for Horses

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Probiotics are popular supplements for horses. They are often included in commercial feeds, multi vitamin/mineral formulas, as well as digestive supplements for horses.

BioStar offers two different probiotics for horses:

BioFlora EQ is a multi-strain cooling probiotic supplement with the prebiotic MOS and microencapsulation for delivery to the small intestine and hindgut, and Bio Yeast EQ is a warming dual probiotic supplement that is microencapsulated to ensure delivery to the hindgut.

Each horse has its own unique microbiome, depending on genetics, diet, and stressors. Knowing about which probiotic to use and when helps to address your horse’s particular needs and leads to a healthier and happier horse.

horse herd | BioStar US

Address your horse’s unique needs with either a warming or cooling probiotic.

Below, we will highlight why probiotics for horses are important and how to select the best one for your horse.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria strains that live in the GI tract.  These microorganisms exist along with the pathogenic bacteria, or “unfriendly” bacteria, which are known to cause infection, and GI tract upset.

In a healthy GI tract there are more colonies of beneficial bacteria than pathogenic bacteria.

In horses there are thousands of microbial species, and the strains used in probiotic supplements and feeds represent a small minority of the colonies that exist in the GI tract.  Microbial diversity is essential to the health of the GI tract.

Examples of beneficial bacteria

The most common beneficial microorganisms used in probiotic supplements and feeds for horses are:

  • Lactobacillus 

  • Enterococcus 

  • Bifidus

  • Saccharomyces cervisiae 

  • Saccharomyces boulardi 

  • Aspergillus oryzae 

The last three microorganisms listed above are common yeast strains.

Lactobacillus rhamnosus: An Underrated Probiotic Player

Lactobacillus rhamnosus

All probiotics for horses are not alike

Yeast probiotics for horses work predominately in the hindgut, helping in the fermentation of fiber from hay and forage.

The milk-derived probiotics for horses, Lactobacillus, Enterococcus, and Bifidus work predominately in the small intestine, while some specific milk-derived strains work in the respiratory tract.  Several Lactobacillus strains are also present in the stomach.

Live or viable probiotics for horses are labeled with CFUs (Colony Forming Units), just like yogurt and kefir. Live probiotics are capable of colonization.

Probiotic strains in supplements and feeds that are not labeled with CFUs are not providing live or viable beneficial bacteria.

For example: Yeast culture probiotics, commonly found in commercial feeds and some supplements are not live, and therefore not capable of colonization in the GI tract.

This does not mean that there are no benefits. Probiotics that are not live still work as prebiotics in the GI tract.  They serve as food for the beneficial microorganisms.

How to evaluate probiotic potency

The amount of CFUs in a probiotic supplement is important because the gastrointestinal system comprises tens of trillions of microorganisms.

A label that states 100 million CFUs sounds impressive, but compared to the trillions in the gut, will not be enough on a therapeutic level.

At a minimum, a live probiotic capable of colonization should supply 100 billion CFUs.  Some researchers point to the need for 400 billion CFUs in cases needing acute probiotic support.

Probiotics for horses should provide at least 100 billion CFU’s per serving.

Many probiotic supplements don’t pass through the stomach

The acids in the stomach can corrode metal, so imagine what stomach acids do to probiotic strains given orally.

Enteric coating or microencapsulated means the probiotic strains are protected and can then work in the small intestine and hindgut.

Look for probiotics for horses that are enteric coated or microencapsulated.

Health benefits of probiotics for horses

Here are some of the powerful benefits of probiotics for horses:

horse

Probiotics help restore microbial balance to the GI tract after antibiotic therapy.

Probiotics from an Eastern Medicine perspective

In Ayurvedic Medicine, all foods and plants are classified into three categories: warming, cooling, and neutral.

Milk, for example, is a cooling food. This means that probiotic strains from milk (Lactobacillus, Bifidus, and Enterococcus) are cooling to the digestive tract.

If you have a horse with gastric or hindgut ulcers, and therefore heat in the GI tract, you need cooling probiotics.

Yeast is a warming food. Yeast probiotics help to increase digestive fire.

For a horse that needs to gain weight, an older horse that may not be utilizing all the feed and forage you are providing, or a horse with hard stools, need a warming probiotic, and that would be yeast.

Probiotic supplements for horses with both cooling and warming microorganisms

Many companies combine the cooling probiotic strains from milk with the warming probiotic strains from yeast.

The theory is to provide the milk-derived probiotics that live primarily in the small intestine, with the yeast probiotics for the hindgut.

However, from an eastern medicine viewpoint, mixing cooling with heating can affect digestion including absorption, assimilation and the production of digestive enzymes.

In Ayurvedic Medicine milk is considered incompatible with yeast.  So blending milk-derived probiotics with yeast probiotics would not be recommended.

Four important prebiotics for your horse

Prebiotics are food for the bacteria in the gut.  They support the existing colonies of microorganisms, for overall intestinal health.

Among the most noted prebiotics in horse supplements and feed are Inulin, Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), Beta Glucans, and Mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS).

FOS and Inulin prebiotics

FOS and Inulin are capable of feeding both friendly microorganisms in the gut as well as the opportunistic or pathogenic bacteria like candida and salmonella.

If there is already an imbalance of opportunistic bacteria in the GI tract, FOS in particular can actually cause unfriendly bacteria to grow.

Beta glucan prebiotics

Beta glucans from barley, oats, yeast, and mushrooms are capable of reaching the hindgut where they are fermented and provide food for the beneficial microorganisms in the colon.

Beta glucans are also beneficial because they slow the transit time of starches, and support more efficient nutrient absorption.

Red Reishi Mushroom

Beta glucans from mushrooms are capable of reaching the hindgut where they are fermented, providing beneficial prebiotics to your horse’s microbiome.

MOS prebiotics

MOS prebiotics can bind to pathogenic bacteria and help flush them out of the body.

MOS also helps regulate the pH of the hindgut so that pathogenic bacteria cannot flourish there.  This is especially important for horses with hindgut ulcers.

Ulcers in the hindgut are the result of a change in the pH.  This is often due to starches not being fully digested in the small intestine, and ending up in the hindgut.

Since hindgut bacteria do not digest starches, they die off and the pathogenic bacteria increase.

How to determine the right probiotics for your horse

Common examples of when to use a cooling probiotic versus a warming probiotic:

  • If your horse has undergone antibiotic therapy, you need a cooling probiotic.
  • If your horse is underweight, you need a warming probiotic.
  • If your horse has gastric or hindgut ulcers, you need a cooling probiotic.
  • If your horse is a hard keeper, you need a warming probiotic.
  • If your horse is under stress, particularly in summer months, you need a cooling probiotic.
  • If your horse has diarrhea, you need a cooling probiotic. In cases of chronic diarrhea add a smectite or bentonite clay to help soak up the toxins.
  • If your horse is a senior who needs digestive support, you most likely need a warming probiotic.
  • If your horse is running a temperature, you need a cooling probiotic.
  • If your horse has hard, dry stools, you need a warming probiotic.
  • If your horse needs both a cooling and a warming probiotic, do not give them at the same time.  Try to space out the cooling from the warming by 6 to 8 hours.
senior horse | BioStar US

Senior horses may benefit from a warming probiotic for additional digestive support.

Probiotics are important for horse health

Probiotics for horses are important for the health of the GI tract and provide necessary immune support for wellness.

Choosing a probiotic supplement can seem like a daunting task, so always ask yourself:

Does my horse need to cool the fire in the GI tract or increase the fire in the GI tract?

This will help you focus on the best bacterial strains to support your horse.

Select the probiotic supplement that’s right for your horse

BioStar offers two different probiotics for horses:

BioFlora EQ is a multi-strain cooling probiotic supplement with the prebiotic MOS and microencapsulation for delivery to the small intestine and hindgut.

When to use BioFlora EQ:

  • After antibiotic therapy
  • For horses with gastric or hind gut ulcers
  • For horses with diarrhea
  • Your horse has a fever
  • For horses under stress
  • You need to cool your horse’s intestinal fire

Bio Yeast EQ is a warming dual probiotic supplement that is microencapsulated to ensure delivery to the hindgut.

When to use Bio Yeast EQ:

  • If your horse needs to gain weight
  • If your horse is a hard keeper
  • A senior horse who needs digestive support
  • If your horse has hard, dry stools
  • If you need to increase the digestive fire in the GI tract

Each horse has its own unique microbiome, depending on genetics, diet, and stressors. Knowing about which probiotic to use and when helps to address your horse’s particular needs and leads to a healthier and happier horse.

BioFlora EQ for horses | BioStar US
BioYeast EQ for horses | BioStar US

 


References:

Jergler D. “The Pros and Cons of Equine Probiotics.” Veterinary Practice News. June 2014.

Larson E. “Study Evaluates Effects of Probiotics for Horses.” TheHorse.com. April 2013.

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