The Probiotic and Prebiotic Puzzle

What do probiotics and their counterparts–prebiotics–do for horses? Here’s what the current research says.
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The wide variability among microbe species and horses' microbiomes make pro- and prebiotic research challenging.| Photo: iStock

What we know and don’t know about these digestive health products

If you’ve watched television or flipped through a lifestyle magazine lately, you’ve probably seen advertisements for health products, such as yogurt, that “contain live cultures,” touting their benefits to your digestive system. Perhaps you even use one of these probiotic supplements yourself or give one to your horse. There are so many different species of microorganisms in the horse’s gut, however, that it’s difficult to know if a probiotic supplement is the type needed to benefit his well-being.

What researchers do know is that the equine gut microbiome (microbe population) is important for overall health.

“We tend to forget that a significant percentage of the immune system is located in the gut, which is critical for regulating immune homeostasis (stability) and health,” says Amanda Adams, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center, in Lexington

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Written by:

Nettie Liburt, MS, PhD, PAS, is an equine nutritionist based on Long Island, New York. She is a graduate of Rutgers University, where she studied equine exercise physiology and nutrition. Liburt is a member of the Equine Science Society.

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