11th October 2019

Winter challenges to your horse’s gut health


The winter months can bring a variety of challenges to many horses, especially the older horse. Colder temperatures and inclement weather can see changes in management and routine. These changes include:

• A change in pasture quality
• Limited turnout
• Management changes
• Low forage diet
• Feeding and diet changes
• Potential increase in antibiotic usage
• Potential increase in anti-inflammatory (painkiller) usage.

These can impact the balance of beneficial and pathogenic (bad) bacteria in the gut. In addition, the poorer pasture quality and reduced nutrition in the grass can impact older horses in particular who may find it difficult to digest their feed effectively. This can result in them struggling to maintain condition.

Why is it important to maintain healthy gut flora? Horses have evolved as trickle feeders, designed to be eating roughage/fibre for a large portion of their day. Digestion of fibre occurs through fermentation by healthy (beneficial) bacteria within the gut and this process provides the horse with an essential source of slow release energy. In addition, maintaining high levels of healthy gut flora helps to keep those pathogenic bacteria at bay keeping the microbial balance in equilibrium. An imbalance in gut flora can cause inflammation of the gut leading to problems such as diarrhoea, colonic ulceration and poor body condition.

How can I help my horse during the winter?
It is very important to speak to your vet if you are concerned about your horse or pony as the weather gets colder. It is advisable to ensure that all aspects of general healthcare have been addressed; these include vaccination, dental care, worming, management and feeding.

“My horse is struggling to maintain weight” Older horses will often have dental problems, including sharp points, over-worn teeth that lack a grinding surface to chew forage effectively, or even missing or fractured teeth. A thorough dental examination by a vet will allow any problems to be treated to ensure your horse is able to eat comfortably and effectively. Once any dental and general health problems have been addressed, feeding a gut support that contains prebiotics and postbiotics  can help to ensure optimum health, digestion and bodyweight.

“My horse struggles with lameness during the winter” Many horses suffer from stiffness or lameness which can be exacerbated during the winter months. This may be due to the change in weather and/or the change in turnout and exercise. It is common for anti-inflammatory (painkiller) treatment (for example ‘bute’) to be given, however in some cases this may damage the gut lining and cause problems.

“My horse requires regular antibiotic treatment” Some older horses have on-going medical conditions such as PPID (Cushing’s Disease) which make them more susceptible to infection resulting in regular antibiotic treatment. The wet and muddy conditions of winter may contribute to an increased number of skin infections. As well as targeting the bacteria responsible for the infection, these antibiotics can impact the population of beneficial gut bacteria resulting in a gut microbial imbalance.

“My horse has to spend more time in the stable” It is inevitable that during the winter months many horses have to spend more time stabled. This change in management often comes with a change in diet. The combination of these factors can have a negative effect on the balance of gut flora and this imbalance can cause inflammation of the gut leading to problems such as diarrhoea, colonic ulceration and poor body condition.

What are prebiotics? Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients which act as a food source for the healthy bacteria within the horse’s gut. They selectively stimulate the growth and/or activity of the beneficial bacteria helping to support hindgut function. Prebiotics include glucooligosaccharides, xylo-oligosaccharides and fructo-oligosaccharides.

What are postbiotics? Postbiotics are beneficial components produced by bacteria during the fermentation production process which have a positive effect on the healthy bacteria within the horse’s gut. These components are likely to: Support healthy gut bacteria by contributing to the structure of the cell wall. Protect the healthy gut bacteria against pathogenic bacteria. Support the gut wall barrier. Support the gut’s natural immune system

There are approximately 200 types of bacteria/organism in each section of the gut with different functions. By using prebiotics and postbiotics all of these healthy bacteria are supported.
A gut support which contains a mixture of prebiotics and postbiotics support the beneficial (good) bacteria and therefore support normal gut function.

29th April 2016

What is chiropractic? Does my horse need chiropractic?

Equine chiropractic is rapidly emerging, especially on the continent with sport horse vets.  Many veterinary surgeons frustrated with vague/low grade lameness with no specific localised area of pain/swelling or displaying poor performance with no cause are turning to chiropractic as another tool of diagnostics.  As an experienced equine vet I too was faced with this issue at least a few times a week.  Chiropractic allows the practitioner to use highly practiced palpation skills to diagnose sub-clinical (no heat pain or swelling) areas in the skeleton where joints are not moving correctly through their full range of motion.  (Think of a rusty door hinge).  However in a horse subtle ‘stiffer joints’ have a large impact on the overall biomechanics.  The way the horse uses itself to perform dressage movements or jump requires more effort and compensations develop in other areas of the spine.  So not only will the horse be not performing as well as it could, but also eventually putting strains on joints and soft tissues causing further injury.

24th April 2016

Specalist Equine Chiropractic Services

Have you had your horse’s back checked recently?

The Horse Vet offers a specialist equine chiropractic service by an experienced equine vet certified in veterinary chiropractic. Appointments are available across Yorkshire.

Call now on 07917684675 or contact to book a chiro session.

8th March 2016

The Horse Vet supporting Nicola Rooke – Three Day Event Rider

The Horse Vet is flattered to be supporting Nicola this year – a dedicated and professional Three Day Event Rider.

“I am an event rider based just north of York and am currently in my first season ‘going solo’ having been previously based on an international event yard. My top horse is advanced and has competed up to CIC*** and along side him I have a number of nice young horses to campaign this season. Charlotte plays a big part in keeping my horses fit and healthy and optimising their performance.”

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