Gut Health Problems are the second leading cause of death in horses
... and the most common is old age. That means that poor gut health is the most common preventable cause of death in horses.
The Horse's Gut
That 30m tract of gut does so much more than digest food. It is responsible for your horse’s health and well-being!
It keeps bad things out and good things in by having an intact gut wall protected by a mucosal lining, and when this defence mechanism isn’t working toxins, pathogens and harmful substances can enter through the gut wall and create havoc.
This can lead to life threatening illnesses, poor performance, pain, behaviour change, weight-loss and whole gut inflammation (ouch).
Stress is an under appreciated contributor to horse gut health problems and some of these problems are not able to be seen until sometimes it's too late (or the problem is severe). Stress includes, strenuous exercise, heat stress, transport, dehydration, mycotoxins, abrupt dietary changes, antibiotics, a high starch diet and anti-inflammatory medications.
A horse does not have to be displaying anxious stressed behaviour to be suffering from stress.
Apart from obvious management techniques such as introducing a new diet slowly, research shows the important role that amino acids play in keeping the gut wall intact. Minerals are also important and can play a role – a reminder to ensure your horses diet is balanced. Interestingly results using probiotics have been variable and inconsistent, particularly in horses with intestinal disease.
With the gut playing such an important role in keeping our horses healthy, horse owners and practitioners need to utilise research to ensure we care for our horses more effectively. We also need to be very discerning when choosing supplements for our horses and ensure the formulations we are using has science and research behind it to back it up.