Something occurs almost daily that can shift the microbial population in the gut of a horse causing it to become unhealthy, thereby increasing the number of “bad” microbes and reducing the number of “good” ones. The vet comes to vaccinate, the farrier digs out an abscess, a new load of hay arrives, a horse gets the wrong feed or has to travel to a show… Any of these events can cause digestive stress and disrupt the microbes in the hindgut.
Perhaps, these disturbances are the reason that the second most commonly used equine supplements (behind joint) are for digestive health. Digestive health is a key component to overall equine health. So, that explains why Smartpak has at least 25 different digestive support supplements and Valley Vet Supply has approximately 84. These supplements are overwhelming to compare and contrast. However, one should begin by understanding the difference between a probiotic and a prebiotic.
Despite the similarity in their names, prebiotics and probiotics are not two different forms of the same ingredient. They are actually two completely different ingredients. To be considered a probiotic, the bacteria must be alive when administered and remain viable when it reaches the digestive tract. Probiotics ADD “live” bugs to provide more “good” microbes or bacteria to the animal. One thing to remember about a probiotic is that this “life” can become death as there is risk involved with the heat, cold or other environmental challenges that could impact the product.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are not alive and are working not to add, but to enhance the naturally occurring growth and benefits of the good microbes that already reside in the hindgut. They are food for the bugs that already exist within the animal.
So how do you choose which digestive support supplement to buy? Ask for the answers to the following four questions:
Is the product backed by research?
Many products conduct field trials to prove their benefits, however, products that have published research display results that are verified by credible, outside parties as proving the product does what it claims to do.
Is there specific proof that the microbial included actually enhances digestion?
It is important to make sure that the microbial in the product is actually legitimate, its mode of action is documented, and its positive benefits are proven as an aid to the health of the beneficial microbes involved in digestion. For example, there is research that shows that prebiotics as a class have a positive impact on equine digestion, but you will want to know if the specific ingredient used in your product has its own proof.
Is the product produced at a facility that is NASC or HACCP certified, which means it uses documented quality processes?
Unlike drugs, these “neutraceuticals” are not required to undergo any quality assurance measures or current good manufacturing practices unless the facility where they are manufactured is NASC or HACCP certified, meaning they ensure safe, pure, potent and effective products.
Is the product shelf stable or is its efficacy impacted by temperature, humidity etc.?
Because probiotics contain living organisms, storage of the product is important, and it must be used before any expiration date included on the label. Prebiotics differ from probiotics in that they do not contain live bacteria. This allows them to not be impacted by storage, sunlight, temperature, humidity or time.
Vitalize® Equine Digest More® Plus is a pelleted prebiotic supplement that produces digestive enzymes and can help maintain a neutral pH in the hindgut for acid protection. A neutral pH reduces the incidence of colonic ulcers (which often accompany stomach ulcers). Because it is a prebiotic, its shelf life is very stable and not impacted by environmental factors.
The following chart summarizes the differences between some popular products on the market as it relates to these four questions.
Vitalize Digest More Plus includes our proprietary, natural additive—Amaferm®—which is a precision prebiotic that is research-proven to increase nutrient absorption, digestibility, as well as hoof, immune, and coat health. This prebiotic is manufactured in a HACCP certified facility and has been extensively researched by universities and private facilities worldwide with over 111 peer reviewed published papers that prove its impact on the microbes.
Vitalize Digest More Plus has also been research-proven relative to its effectiveness on the horse in which those microbes reside. A.L. McDaniel from the University of Georgia published research that showed the product increased the fermentation capacity of the digestive ecosystem, thereby increasing digestive health to the horse.