Mares and foals: Why probiotics are important during times of stress

Posted by Shannon Mueller on

Have you considered the importance of proper gut microbiome health for mares and foals? Probiotics are an essential part of life and health for horses(and people)!

From the moment a horse is born, the primary colonization of their digestive microbiome begins. Starting with intake of bacteria from the birthing process itself, foals also intake good bacteria from their mother’s milk, mother’s feces, and from the environment. But what happens if the mother doesn’t have an ideal microbiome? Or the foal is not properly colonized? Excessive foal diarrhea and failure to thrive are the two most common signs that things are not going as nature intended.

 During times of stress, the microbiome of the mare can be altered from optimum. Stress hormones, antibiotics, medications, dewormer,  and sickness are all common causes of impact to healthy populations of probiotics, and leave room for undesirable microbe growth. During those times, it is vital to feed a high quality, non- colonizing probiotic product to help re-align and support the natural populations of probiotics.

It is important that your mare has a healthy, optimal microbiome because that is the microbiome that your foal will be imprinted with in their intestine.

Now that you know why they are important, here is how to choose a quality product:

Like all supplements in the horse industry: careful consideration is necessary to get the best bang for your buck and not throw your money away.

Here are some facts to consider:

Paste “Probiotics:” Probiotic pastes may have had probiotics added to them at the time of manufacture, but freeze dried lactic acid producing bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium will become active once added to the high moisture environment of a paste and begin growing. Without the addition on antimicrobials, the product integrity would be changed and fermented. Paste probiotics will contain aggressive spore forming bacteria, sold as probiotics.  In summary: Choose a dry product.

Spore formers: Did you know that Bacillus species are very aggressive and while they are considered a “probiotic”(mostly due to their stability), in the probiotic industry they are considered a contamination organism? Summary: Lactobacillus=good, Bacillus=suspect

Moisture/water activity: “Yes, I feed probiotics. They are included in my grain.” Another unfortunate and misleading statement from grain manufacturers. Yes, there will still be the bacillus, and maybe a beneficial yeast or two, but there will not remain any effective amounts of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Pediococcus, or  Propionobacterium. These probiotics must be handled correctly and kept in low water activity conditions until feeding.

Enterococcus faecium: The leading transmitter of antibiotic resistant plasmids to other bacteria, and only 2 plasmids away from turning into E. faecalis(a pathogen): Avoid this common species in your probiotic product selection.

So where does that leave us? Seems like a lot of sub par products out there. Three years ago my colleague DeAnna and I wondered the same thing. We took matters into our own hands and released a human grade line of probiotic products for horses, foals, dogs, cats, and birds from Equa Holistics. We factored in all of the necessary components to create the highest quality probiotic products available to animals. Human grade, NON GMO, and low water activity

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