Are You Paying Attention to Your Horse’s Gut, Digestion and Diet?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Some Horse Health Tips from KAM’s Equine Learning Circle

Horses also get stressed and their digestion and gut can suffer with ulcers and other ailments.  How to identify potential problems is something every horse owner should learn. One way to help prevent your horse(s) from getting sick or bring them back to health is by making sure what they eat is good for them.  We pay careful attention to our diets, but do we pay attention to what we feed our horses?  What our horses eat is important if we want them to be healthy and free from disease.
How to Restore and Recondition Equine Digestive and Gut Health
Many horses suffer from stress related digestive problems. Studies show over 50% of show and race horses have ulcers in their GI tract. When the proper acid-base balance of a horse’s digestive tract is disturbed, gastric and/or intestinal ulcers may develop. This increased intestinal permeability creates a pro-inflammatory state that may lead to food sensitivities, allergies, sore muscles and joints, impaired immune system function, colic, laminitis, and many other illnesses.  

If one considers the hypothesis “you are what you eat,” you should understand the principle applies to your horse as well. An unhealthy ulcerated gut sets the stage for equine disease. The digestive tract serves as a “door” to the equine’s body.  It is of the utmost importance that the “door” remains selectively functional.  When it becomes “stuck open,” as with ulcers and dysbiosis, the digestive tract transforms into a highway for toxins and pathogens (bacteria, virus, and yeast) to enter the body and trigger disease, including systemic inflammation and lameness.  

The first and foremost objective for your equine partner’s wellness program must be a well-balanced diet. A nutrient specific supplemental program containing pre-biotics, pro-biotics, digestive enzymes, bioactive immunoglobulins, and Saccharomyces Boulardii (a beneficial yeast) will help assure a healthy digestive tract to optimize digestion and absorption.  

Once you focus on your horse’s digestive health, you will find that most other health and performance concerns will improve.

What They Eat is What They Are – A Closer Look at Balanced Feed and Supplements

There are many factors to consider when trying to either manage a horse’s weight or have them gain weight. To start with, the feed quality and source of calories within the feed is critical. We all know eating fat promotes gaining fat more than eating protein does. Did you know the quality of that fat affects the health of the cells throughout the body and that eating “bad” fats will decrease overall health and performance? A feed should be palatable, digestible, consistent, and made with high quality ingredients.  

Next are the teeth. Proper dentition is needed to chew the feed, thereby increasing the surface area exposed for digestion.

Then there is the stomach and intestinal tract where the feed is mixed with digestive enzymes and the microflora (bacteria and yeast) that are necessary to break down the food particles for absorption. A deficiency or imbalance of these enzymes, bacteria, and/or yeast, known as dysbiosis, can lead to poor digestion, malabsorption, and weight loss regardless of the feed quality or quantity given. Long term dysbiosis leads to leaky gut syndrome which creates a pro-inflammatory state within the body leading to a wide variety of problems varying from sore muscles and joints to laminitis and/or allergies.  

Inflammation in the gut inhibits absorption of nutrients, exacerbates vitamin and mineral deficiencies, suppresses immune system functions, compromises normal detoxification pathways, and breaks down the protective barrier of the GI tract. Once the gut lining is damaged it can no longer ward off toxins and pathogenic protozoa, bacteria, viruses and yeasts. A “gut-conditioning” program will re-condition the digestive tract to reduce inflammation, promote healing and healthy weight management and weight gain when needed. Remember, no guts-no glory!

Learn More About Your Horse’s Health

KAM Animal Services will be offering two free webinars focusing on the above topics in January.  If you’d like to sign up and learn more about how to help your horse’s digestion and gut health and what kinds of feeds your horse should be eating go to and sign up for their free webinars now.  Space is limited.