PREBIOTICS, PROBIOTICS, YEAST & BACTERIA FOR HORSES – A CLEAR AND SIMPLE EXPLANATION
Dr David Marlin
There is often some confusion among horse owners over the topic of PREBIOTICS AND PROBIOTICS. This is understandable as the use of the terminology between companies in the equine feed and supplement industry is not always consistent.
PREBIOTICS – A NON-LIVING feed ingredient that promotes the growth of micro-organisms (often bacteria) that have a beneficial effect on gastro-intestinal function and or health.
PROBIOTICS – LIVE micro-organisms (essentially LIVE bacteria or LIVE yeasts) that promotes the growth of micro-organisms (often bacteria) that have a beneficial effect on gastro-intestinal function and or health.
The effects of PREBIOTICS AND PROBIOTICS in horses can include: improved efficiency of digestion, correction of loose droppings, improved behaviour and decreased risk of serious GI illness such as colic.
PREBIOTICS e.g. dead yeast (e.g. dead brewers yeast), FOS (fructooligosaccharides) MOS (mannanoligosaccharides), betaglucans.
PROBIOTICS e.g. live yeasts, live bacteria.
A PROBIOTIC BACTERIA would be a live bacteria whilst the same bacteria when DEAD would be a PREBIOTIC. Similarly, a live yeast would be a PROBIOTIC whilst the same yeast when DEAD would be PREBIOTIC.
WHAT CAN LEGALLY BE USED IN HORSE FEED AND SUPPLEMENTS IN THE UK?
Prebiotics are generally not an issue. If they are “novel” they must be on the EU Feed Register of Additives.
There are strains of live yeasts (PROBIOTICS) that are registered for use in feed and supplements for horses in the UK. These are on the EU Register of Feed Additives. There are live bacteria (probiotic) strains that are registered for use in some species (e.g. dogs) but there are NO LIVE BACTERIA PROBIOTICS currently permitted for use in feeds or supplements for horses.
The register is available here: https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/safety/docs/animal-feed-eu-reg-comm_register_feed_additives_1831-03.pdf