What is Dysbiosis (Leaky Gut Syndrome) ?
Dysbiosis is a change in the flora of the intestinal tract of your horse. This can be caused by something as simple as stress. If your horse is receiving medications such as antibiotics, this can cause changes to the natural flora as well. Either way, your horse will need supportive therapies in order to get the flora back in balance. A change in diet, ensuring he remains hydrated, and giving him probiotics will all be needed for the recovery process. If you do not treat your horse, it can lead to more serious conditions including insulin related issues, founders, laminitis, and other serious issues. If you begin treatment promptly, your horse has a good prognosis of recovery. However, if you do not treat him, he will only get worse and may develop secondary issues that may lead to his death.
Dysbiosis in horses, also known as leaky gut syndrome, all begins with a change in the gastrointestinal flora. It may start out minor, but if you let it go untreated, it can lead to serious illnesses or conditions developing in your horse.
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Symptoms of Dysbiosis (Leaky Gut Syndrome) in Horses
Symptoms of dysbiosis may vary from case to case but can include:
- Stiffness and joint soreness
- Poor exercise tolerance
- Shortness of breath
- Mood swings
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Bowel related bacterial infections
Dysbiosis is a result of the horse’s normal intestinal flora becoming imbalanced. This can occur after your horse has been on antibiotics and disturbed the normal flora. This can occur naturally due to your horse becoming ill, or it can happen after medications are administered which causes the intestinal flora to change.
Causes of Dysbiosis (Leaky Gut Syndrome) in Horses
When on antibiotics, it not only kills the bad bacteria in the gastrointestinal system but the good bacteria as well. This causes dysbiosis, or changes in the normal intestinal flora, and can lead to other digestive issues. Another cause could be hindgut acidosis; it leads to a change in the intestinal pH. This also leads to dysbiosis. Other medical issues that affect the gastrointestinal system can also play a potential role in causing dysbiosis.
Diagnosis of Dysbiosis (Leaky Gut Syndrome) in Horses
When diagnosing dysbiosis in horses, a fecal sample will be taken in order to see what microorganisms are present. In cases of dysbiosis, there is a reduced diversity of organisms in the feces.
Symptoms will also help with diagnosis of dysbiosis. Many times, horses will develop dysbiosis without colitis; this can mean your horse will not have an appetite, but will be without any other symptoms. In other situations, the lack of good bacteria in the digestive tract can lead to poor absorption of nutrients from his diet. This can lead to loose or runny manure.
Your veterinarian may also want to run blood work to check for other abnormalities your horse may be experiencing. A complete blood count and chemistry panel will give the veterinarian the needed information to determine if your horse is suffering from an additional illness or parasite in addition to the gut flora being abnormal.
Treatment of Dysbiosis (Leaky Gut Syndrome) in Horses
Treatment for dysbiosis can include multiple steps. Probiotic supplements offer the horse beneficial bacteria to replace the good bacteria that were lost. Prebiotics are another form of good bacteria that can be administered. Supplementing his diet with yeast is also thought to be beneficial. It aids in digestion and can be offered with a low risk of dysbiosis developing.
Ensuring your horse stays hydrated and eating is also important during this time. Since nutrients are not being absorbed correctly, it can lead to malnutrition. Also, there may be excess fluid loss since absorption is being interfered with. Ensuring he stays hydrated with fluid therapy with added electrolytes is imperative.
Changing your horse’s diet to something more appropriate for his condition is extremely important for recovery. Depending on what flora your horse is lacking and other symptoms he may be experiencing will determine the best type of food for him. There are specific diets you can purchase for horses suffering from dysbiosis; consult with your veterinarian in order to pick out the best one for your horse.
Recovery of Dysbiosis (Leaky Gut Syndrome) in Horses
If you do not take corrective measures to help your horse, dysbiosis can lead to more serious problems and possibly even a need to euthanize. If your horse has to go on antibiotics for any reason, put him on a probiotic at the same time in order to try and prevent abnormalities of the intestinal flora from developing.
As soon as you notice your horse acting abnormally or his manure changes, call your veterinarian as soon as possible. The sooner you start treatment, the higher his prognosis of a full recovery with few or no lasting side effects.