Gut health and the relation to stress in the horse

Plusvital’s Chief Technical Office Rebecca Watson explains the relationship between gut health and equine stress. 

Stress and gut health are intricately linked in horses, with stress often exerting a significant impact on the delicate balance of microbes that live in the horse’s gut. The gastrointestinal tract is highly sensitive to changes in the horse’s environment, routine, and emotional state, making it susceptible to dysbiosis when the horse experiences stress.

Dysbiosis is defined by an imbalance in microbial composition, changes in microbial metabolic activities, or changes in microbial distribution within the gut.

The three types of dysbiosis are:

Dysbiosis can lead to other health issues, such as:

Impaired Digestive Function: During periods of stress, horses may exhibit changes in eating behaviour, such as reduced feed intake. This can disrupt the natural rhythm of digestion, impair nutrient absorption, and predispose the horse to gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhoea, colic or hindgut acidosis.
Increased Risk of Gastric Ulcers: Stress has been closely associated with the development and exacerbation of gastric ulcers in horses. The release of stress hormone cortisol stimulates gastric acid secretion while simultaneously reducing mucosal blood flow in the stomach, creating the perfect conditions for ulcers to form.

Compromised Immune Response: Chronic stress can weaken the horse’s immune system, making it more susceptible to gastrointestinal infections and inflammatory conditions
such as colitis. Prolonged activation of the stress response can also impair the mucosal barrier function of the gut, allowing pathogens and toxins to penetrate the intestinal wall and trigger inflammatory responses.

Behavioural Changes: Alterations in attitude, such as restlessness, cribbing, or weaving, may indicate underlying stressors that are affecting the horse’s gut health. Addressing these
behavioural manifestations of stress through environmental enrichment, routine management, and stress-reducing techniques can help alleviate gastrointestinal disturbances and promote overall well-being in the horse.

So, what can you do to help mitigate dysbiosis in your horse?

Just some of the beneficial ingredients that Neutragast contains include;

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Designed to neutralise lactic acid during episodes of tying-up and act as a buffer when acidosis occurs.


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