Stress! Did you know stress affects the gut? In pretty dramatic ways!
Prof John Pluske presented a talk at this weeks animal nutrition conference looking at the effect of stress on weanling pigs. Here are some photos from his presentation:
Pigs have a very similar gastrointestinal tract to horses so I often look at pig data when trying to solve problems where there is not enough horse specific information to base my research on.
Prof Pluske showed that stress negatively affects a weanlings pigs gut. With the guts ability to repair itself and it’s effectiveness as a barrier between gut and body both being damaged by stress. Essentially when a piglet is stressed the gut gets damaged. But it then can’t fix itself and it starts to leak.
Which seems relevant to horses. I am sure that we see this in horses too and with the similarities in gut physiology it seems logical… which means we need to be really aware of how we feed and how that impacts on gut health, particularly when a horse gets stressed.
Three things that are really important:
1. Feeding a fully balanced diet that meets all nutrient requirements so the gut has the nutrients it needs to remain intact.
2. Feeding lots of forage. Forage is high in fibre and supports the population of good bacteria in your horse’s gut. These bacteria are very involved in maintaining overall gut health; and
3. Feeding high quality protein. The gut has huge requirements for specific essential amino acids. These amino acids are used by the gut to repair and to produce protective mucus. To provide optimum levels of these amino acids you need to use ingredients with high quality protein.
Protein quality is so important for many reasons. To learn more read our post ‘Understanding Protein Quality’.