“Feed for Thought”: Equine Hindgut Health Part 2: How to effectively support a healthy hindgut

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Published: 2014-09-22

By Suzie Middlebrook, BSc. | Cavalor Nutrition Specialist

The complex digestive tract of the horse can sometimes be assaulted by different irritants or pathogens that can cause diarrhea or Gas. Some examples would be a change in diet, a virus, anti biotic treatment or an excess amount of oil in their diet. All three of these scenarios can cause the normal microbial populations, or “good gut bacteria,” to suffer, causing their numbers to falter which can lead to even further negative impact on the overall health of the horse. The drop in microbial populations can cause a negative feedback loop, leading to further insult on the gastrointestinal health of the horse. This is due to the fact that the gut environment has been significantly altered, impeding the horse’s ability to self-repair from the initial insult.

In combination with prebiotics, as discussed in the previous Feed for Thought, probiotics can be added to the diet to help repopulate the hindgut after some sort of insult or to maintain an appropriate microbial balance in the hindgut for healthy horses. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria and yeast that have been shown to improve both hindgut and overall health of the animal. It is theorized that live beneficial bacteria can help improve immunity, beneficially alter the hindgut environment, and increase the production of beneficial compounds, such as nutrients, enzymes, and volatile fatty acids (Weese et. al., 2002). Unfortunately, most studies looking into the viability of commercially available product containing beneficial bacteria have shown no such effects in clinical trials (Canganella et. al., 1997).

In contrast, though, several benefits have been seen in horses using yeast cultures, or more specifically, Saccharomyces spp. These yeast cultures are grown on a medium and then dried to form a shelf-stable product that is viable for up to 2 years after production. Dried active yeast cultures have been shown in clinical trials to help promote the growth of beneficial bacterial populations, which indicates that they may be a useful tool in maintaining a healthy and thriving microbial population in the hindgut (Robinson, 2002; Moore et al, 2004). Studies have also shown that dried yeast supplementation helps improve the digestion of fiber and various nutrients, which means that your horse gets more out of their feed and hay (Pagan, 1990; Godblee, 1983; Switzer et. al., 2003; Glade and Biesik, 1986).

Because of this prevailing science, Cavalor® has chosen to add live yeast cultures to a number of our feeds as a nutraceutical called YEAST PLUS to help promote the overall health of the horses fed these products. YEAST PLUS is found in a number of our feeds, including Cavalor® Perfomix, Cavalor® Superforce, Cavalor® Strucomix Original, Cavalor® Strucomix Senior, and Cavalor® FiberForce. We also produce a live yeast culture supplement called CAVALOR® VITAFLOR 365 that we highly recommend feeding whenever changing your feeding program or administering antibiotics to help maintain a healthy hindgut environment. CAVALOR® VITAFLOR 365 may also be given on a daily basis to help protect your horse from the daily stresses that may cause gastrointestinal upsets.

Canganella, F., S. Paganini, M. Ovidi, A.M. Vettraino, L. Bevilacqua, S. Massa, and L.D. Trovatelli. 1997. A microbiological investigation on probiotic pharmaceutical products used for human health. Microbiological Research. 152: 171-179.

Glade, M.J., and L.M. Biesik. 1986. Enhanced nitrogen retention in yearling horses supplemented with yeast culture. Journal of Animal Science. 62: 1635-1640.

Godbee, R. 1983. Effect of yeast culture on apparent digestibility and nitrogen balance in horses. Res. Bull., Clemson Univ., Clemson, SC.

Pagan, J.D. 1990. Effect of yeast culture supplementation on nutrient digestibility in mature horses. Journal of Animal Science. 68 (Suppl. 1): 371. (Abstract.)

Switzer, S.T., L.A. Baker, J.L. Pipkin, R.C. Bachman, and J.C. Haliburton. 2003. The effect of yeast culture supplementation on nutrient digestibility in aged horses. Pp 12-17 in Prceedings of 18th and Physiology Society Symposium, East Lansing, MI.

Weese, J.S. 2002. Probiotics, prebioitics, and synbiotics. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. 22: