Antibiotics And Equine Gut Health

Antibiotics can be hard on the digestive and immune systems of horses, but there are some natural approaches that can assist in restoring the equine body back to a normal state after a course of antibiotics has been finished.

Horses, just like humans, have bacteria and microbes that live in their intestinal tract; antibiotics damage the microbiota and inflame the gut wall, creating a “leaky gut” that allows compounds that are normally blocked to pass into the body. Damage to the microbiome also damages the immune system. In the case of chronic infections like Lyme disease, for which a horse may be on repeated rounds of antibiotics, the immune system and gut may never fully recover.

Helping a horse repair his gut is essential after the course of antibiotics is completed. Quality feed, prebiotics and probiotics can assist in repairing the gut wall and the immune system. Horses that eat mainly hay and forage are generally healthier than horses fed lots of grain.

Prebiotics are short-chain fibers that microbiota grown on; common forms are inulin and beta-glucans, among others. Horses can get additional amounts of prebiotics by including items in their diets that contain them (like chicory, oats and barley) or by using a commercially available supplement. Herbs like marshmallow, aloe, dandelion and ginger can all help heal the gut wall and can be planted in pastures or gardens to be fed to horses.

Probiotics fed to the horse while he is taking antibiotics can help do some damage control, but they will assist even more once the course of antibiotics has finished. Other nutrients like glutamine and colostrum can help heal the gut wall and repair the immune system. It will take a minimum of three months for the horse’s gut to heal after a short course of antibiotics and much longer for repeated antibiotic use for chronic disease.

Read more at Equine Wellness Magazine.

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