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Understanding Probiotics

In human medicine, probiotics have long since found their niche for increased wellbeing, better metabolism and reduced stress. Interestingly, the same holds true in the animal kingdom.
Consider the fact that a horse primarily lives on grass which ferments in the gut and thus provides the animal with nutrients. Fermentation is dependent on the microorganisms that live in the large intestine. Probiotics keep the microorganisms healthy and flourishing, so that the animalís digestion works at optimal levels.

Yet as a human owner it is easy to get intimidated when reading about them either for supplementation or simply as one of the ingredients of your feed bag. Before you give up on ever understanding them, consider the role of microorganisms in your

horse. Foals first receive them from the dams as they are being licked clean after birth. From then on, regular ingestion allows the horse to reseed the number of microorganisms as they are gradually decreased. Probiotics in your horseís diet will allow the microorganisms to flourish.

All this points toward the wisdom of supplying these probiotics, but which method yields the best results Ė after all, there is the paste you can use or the powder that can be added to the feed. Research has shown that to reap the maximum benefit of the supplementation, it should be done on a consistent basis, thus added to the feed. The paste, on the other hand, is a great tool to help an animal that experienced a shock to its system, such as colic, surgery, or even a round of antibiotics. The supplementation of the feed is more of a long-term program.
While there is no harm in giving probiotics, it is advisable to read the directions when it comes to the proper dosage. Similarly, not every horse is in dire need of supplementation. Take for example a healthy, mature horse which receives little or no exercise, and you may rest assured that the animal does not experience a critical need. On the other hand, if your animal is a show horse, travels, or performs otherwise, you will want to supplement. Additionally, if you notice a lack in appetite, colic, or abdominal strain, you will want to add some probiotics to the dietary regimen.
On a side note, the very reason why horse owners are warned not to suddenly switch an animalís diet is simply due to the fact that the feed the animal normally enjoys determines the kinds of microorganisms that are living in the gut. Switch the feed, and the result is gas, ammonia build up, and other problems as the microorganisms are seeking to cope with the change of feed. The results may be founder of colic.



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