by Robo Hendrickson

Using Probiotics With Antibiotics

Using Probiotics With Antibiotics

What are antibiotics?

The definition of an antibiotic is a medicine (such as penicillin or its derivatives) that inhibits the growth of, or destroys, microorganisms (bacteria).

And when your horse has a bad or unnatural microorganism causing problems (infection) you’re glad that science has discovered antibiotics.

Unless you’re a very new horse owner, chances are that at one point or another, your horse has been on a course of antibiotics.

Simply stated, horses get hurt. They step on nails, rip their skin on branches, fencing, and other obstacles and they get bitten by other horses.

And when these things happen, infections can occur. And when infections occur, we reach for antibiotics.

What do antibiotics do?

These often life-saving miracle drugs do the job without prejudice - antibiotics destroy both the good and the bad bugs. This can throw off the natural balance of the equine gut microbiome.

What that means is that an antibiotic doesn’t just target the bacteria that can cause a harmful infection; it can also work against the beneficial bacteria in your horse’s hindgut.

A sure sign that the balance between bad and good microbes is off? Diarrhea.

We like to say that if your horse has a good, solid apple, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re healthy, but if they have diarrhea, they damn sure have something bad going on.

That’s when you need probiotics - a supplement that stimulates the growth of microorganisms, especially those with beneficial properties (such as those of the intestinal flora).

Modern research methods and more focus on the science of microorganisms are revealing some really amazing things. They’ve discovered that the microbiome, the protective barrier us mammals have floating on top of our skin and in our GI tract, is WAY more important to our overall health than was ever imagined.

In fact, the microbiome in the gut may account for 70% to 80% of our total immune system!

So when the natural balance of your microbiome is thrown off by the use of antibiotics, giving it a boost with probiotics will help decrease the chance of your horse getting diarrhea.

What’s the best probiotic to take with antibiotics?

Most probiotics on the market are bacterial strains. These strains cannot survive during antibiotic use.

FullBucket uses a yeast-based strain called Saccharomyces boulardii. As a yeast, the antibiotic you’re giving your horse does not have an adverse effect on the probiotic.

Not only is this strain the most clinically studied and proven strain of probiotic with numerous health benefits, but its ability to help fight diarrhea is also well documented.

What else do probiotics do for horses?

You’ve probably seen advertisements on television, in magazines or online that tout probiotic yogurt to help with your digestion.

Probiotics work in the same way for your horse.

Probiotics provide a good medium for the helpful bacteria in your horse’s gut. And, it is considerably less hospitable to harmful bacteria growth.

This means that the beneficial bacteria in the hindgut continue to flourish, while the antibiotics continue to work on the harmful bacteria.

Once again S. boulardii, the yeast based strain of probiotic used as our core probiotic, promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut.

This strain of yeast has been studied a lot and has been shown to improve digestion and your horse’s ability to get nutrients out of the expensive feed you’re scooping out.

This yeast is particularly beneficial for senior horses that have lost some of their ability to absorb certain essential nutrients in their large intestine and need additional help with maintaining weight.

Is the best probiotic for horses a paste or a powder?

The answer to this question depends on your horse and his eating habits. It is a good idea to have both options handy depending on the circumstance. Some horses, especially when they are sick, either eat less or even go off feed completely.

For these instances you definitely want to use the paste. That way you can ensure that they are getting the proper dosage.

For horses who are less picky and eating well, the granules or pellets placed on top of the feed work fine. 

What if the probiotic doesn't help with my horse’s diarrhea?

If diarrhea persists, first action is to contact your veterinarian. Make sure that something else isn't going on. It may require lab workup to find out what is happening in the gut, but the peace of mind is worth the small price. 

If the GI upset is really bad, you might look into ADD Bioclay Plus Paste, which contains multiple solutions in one tube to get the equine digestive system back on track. It’s truly a miracle worker!

The Final Word: Should you take probiotics with antibiotics?

Yes. Same goes for your horse. 

If you are giving your horse antibiotics, you should definitely offer specially formulated equine probiotic supplements to protect the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.

The probiotic should also be continued once the horse is no longer taking the antibiotic to support gut microbiota on a daily basis.

Probiotics can help your horse’s overall health even in less difficult circumstances, but when a course of antibiotics is being administered or has just been discontinued, use of a probiotic supplement is more important than ever. 


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