The use of prebiotics and probiotics in horse diets has become a common practice — and for good reason.1,2,3 Increased attention to and understanding of gut health in humans, pets and livestock have led to more research and effective solutions available on the market. Research studies have shown:
- 82.7% of horse owners and leasers believe that prebiotics and probiotics are beneficial to their horse’s gut health.3
- More than half (52.9%) of these horse owners use feeds containing prebiotics or probiotics, while 32.7% offered a supplemental prebiotic or probiotic.3
- 68.2% of horse owners said they believe prebiotics and/or probiotics should be part of a horse’s daily feeding program.3
But, did you know there are actually four ‘biotics you should know about: pre-, pro-, post- and synbiotics? Let’s look at each of the four categories, define what they are and discuss how they work together.
First, let’s break down the role ‘biotics play in your horse’s overall health and welfare.
Why focus on gut health?
The equine gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is susceptible to disease and sensitive to changes in diet, has a complex and diverse bacteria population called the microbiome that is critical to a horse’s health.1,2 The microbes within the GI tract assist with the digestion of nutrients, stimulate immune response, help protect against external pathogens, neutralize toxins and regulate gene expression — all of which are vital functions.2,4,5 Poor gut health can result in leaky gut, leading to reduced immune function, systemic inflammation and susceptibility to disease.
All four types of ‘biotics can play a role in promoting good bacteria and therefore influence the microbiome and the overall gut health of your horse.
Defining the ‘biotics
- Prebiotics are carbohydrates, mostly fiber, used by probiotics and good bacteria as fuel.
- Probiotics are live microorganisms, usually strains of beneficial bacteria, or “good bugs.” Certain probiotics focus on promoting a healthy microbial balance and diversity in the gut, while others also help reduce the number of pathogens or “bad bugs.”
- Postbiotics are metabolites produced by probiotics.6 These metabolites help prevent disease and promote overall horse health and well-being.
- Synbiotics are a synergistic mixture of prebiotics and probiotics in which the prebiotic increases the benefit of a paired probiotic.
How ‘biotics are used to support gut health
Since more than 70% of the horse’s immune system resides in the gut, it’s crucial to approach gut health in a comprehensive way, including management, nutrition, treatment and more. Horse owners and veterinarians may feed probiotics and related supplements to improve microbial balance, help prevent disease and ultimately improve gut health.1,5 The various ‘biotics may be used synergistically to support, regenerate, and diversify the “good bugs” and eliminate the “bad bugs.”
Factors to consider in choosing a ‘biotic
While each horse — and their microbial population — is unique, veterinarians and horse owners should consider some key thoughts when reviewing ‘biotic solutions: survivability, mode of action and safety.10
- For probiotics and synbiotics — can they survive feed processing and the GI tract? For a probiotic or synbiotic to be active and effective, it must be able to survive the unhospitable conditions of the stomach and digestion system, as well as those encountered during processing, sotrage, distribution and preparation.5
- Does it have an understood and proven mode of action? Specifically, what is the main mode of action of a given ‘biotic solution, and is the product backed by equine-specific data?
- Is it safe for horses? As with any potential inclusion into your horse’s diet, be sure it’s proven to be equine-safe and approved for use in horses.
Probiotic spotlight: CLOSTAT®
The Bacillus subtilis PB6 found in CLOSTAT helps reduce the number of pathogenic bacteria in the horse’s gut, allowing for other prebiotics and probiotics in the horse’s diet to be more effective.10,11 PB6 has a combination of antimicrobial efficacy, pH intolerance and thermostability that makes it one of the most effective probiotics on the market for horses today.12
- Survivability: PB6 in CLOSTAT has been proven to survive the pelleting process and gastric exposure within the horse’s GI tract.13
- Mode of action: PB6 has been found to secrete one or more biocidal proteins that inhibit certain strains of pathogenic bacteria such as Clostridium perfringens and several other equine-specific pathogens that can lead to intestinal inflammation and disease.13
- Safety: PB6 in CLOSTAT has been demonstrated to be safe for use in foal and adult horse diets.13
Look for science-backed, proven solutions for gut health
There is no silver bullet when it comes to establishing and maintaining optimal gut health for horses, but ‘biotics are an important piece of the gut health puzzle. To find the best solution for your horse, talk with your veterinarian or contact your Kemin Equine representative today!
1Weese JS. Probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics. J Equine Vet Sc (2002);22(8):357-360. https://pubag.nal.usda.gov/catalog/648562
2Venable EB, Bland SD, McPherson JL, Francis J. Role of the gut microbiota in equine health and disease. Animal Frontiers (2016); 6(3):43-49. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Stephanie-Clark-20/publication/304530094_Role_of_the_gut_microbiota_in_equine_health_and_disease/links/57af312408aeb2cf17c25751/Role-of-the-gut-microbiota-in-equine-health-and-disease.pdf
3Gluck C, Pratt-Phillips S. 65 Survey regarding the perception of prebiotics/probiotics amongst North Carolina horse owners or leasers. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. Volume 100, May 2021, 103528, Proceedings of the Virtual Equine Science Symposium 1st – June 4, 2021.
4Loving NS. Equine Immunity from Birth to Old Age. The Horse, April 26, 2019. https://thehorse.com/157320/equine-immunity-from-birth-to-old-age/
5High J. The Importance of Equine Prebiotics and Probiotics for Gut Health. Quarter Horse News, July 19, 2021. https://www.quarterhorsenews.com/2021/07/the-importance-of-equine-prebiotics-and-probiotics-for-guthealth/
6Smith L. What are Postbiotics? WebMD, Sept. 8, 2021. https://www.webmd.com/digestivedisorders/features/what-are-postbiotics
7Godbee, RG. What are Probiotics, Prebiotics and Synbiotics and Why Should My Horse Care? Nutrition and Feeding, Equi-University, Nov. 18, 2019. https://equiuniversity.com/what-are-probiotics-prebiotics-andsynbiotics-and-why-should-my-horse-care/
8Markowiak P, Śliżewska K. The role of probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics in animal nutrition. Gut Pathog (2018) 10:21. https://gutpathogens.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s13099-018-0250-0.pdf
9Sabahi S, Homayouni Rad A, Aghebati-Maleki L, Sangtarash N, Asghari Ozma M, Karimi A, Hosseini H, Abbasi A. Postbiotics as the new frontier in food and pharmaceutical research. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition (2022). Published online March 29, 2022.
10Evaluating the Antimicrobial Efficacy of CLOSTAT® and Alternative Equine Probiotics. Kemin Technical Literature.
11CLOSTAT for Equine. Kemin. https://www.kemin.com/na/en-us/products/clostat/equine
12CLOSTAT Active Microbial Mode of Action. Kemin. https://www.kemin.com/content/dam/pdf/PTP-349%20CLOSTAT%20for%20Ruminants%20MOA%20One%20Pager.pdf
13Burke, M. L. and Moore, S.A. (2017, Nov.). Bacillus subtilis Strain PB6 Demonstrates Growth Inhibition Toward Equine-Specific Bacterial Pathogens. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S073708061730103X