By Dr. Shane Baird
Anyone in the horse industry knows that a healthy horse gut is of the utmost importance. As owners and stewards of the horse we need to do everything that we can do to keep that gut in the best shape possible.
The use of probiotics and their relationship to a healthy gut has been researched and discussed in both human and equine medicine with new information coming out regularly demonstrating the positive effects probiotics have on gut health. Current human-based research is looking into the disruptions in the natural gut flora (good microbes) that occur with the use of both prescription and OTC medications. An important term being used in that research is “dysbiosis.”
Dysbiosis is a microbial imbalance on or inside the body, which has a couple of important/bad impacts. First, normal microbiota help the body in various, sometimes unexpected, ways, including digestion but it’s also been shown to impact things such as brain health. Secondly, with less of the “good bacteria” in the gut, there is more room for pathogens (infectious) bacteria to overgrow. This overgrowth wreaks havoc on the lining of the stomach and intestines.
NSAIDS and Gut Health
As veterinarians, we prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) every day. The most common examples of NSAIDS are bute and banamine. We know that there is a direct link between the toxicity of these drugs and gastric (stomach) ulcers and right dorsal colitis. Therefore, we typically limit their use over time, doing our best to keep treatment lengths to under 10 days.
A paper presented at the 2017 AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) meeting reported a change in the microbial population of the horses’ gut after only 5-10 days of NSAID use. This means that through the course of a normal treatment for a lameness issue we will most likely cause a disruption in the gut microbiota population.
Equioxx and Gut Health
Newer drugs like fibrocoxib (Equioxx) are known as COX2 inhibitors. COX2 inhibitors have an altered mode of action, allowing for longer treatment regimes. Some horses tolerate these drugs for months and even years with no obvious side effects. We have far less understanding of the effect these drugs and others have on the natural microbiota of the horse’ gut. The above-mentioned paper from the AAEP has drawn a convincing link between relative short-term NSAID use and alterations in the gut.
The question then becomes, what changes happen if we have these patients in treatment for months or years? Research has yet to answer this, but one might presume that we should also support these horses with probiotics. More research will shed further light on this subject, and if you have any specific questions, feel free to contact us at Mobile Veterinary Services.