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Please find a range of FAQs on this page, if your question is not answered do not hesitate to contact us and one of our Technical Advisors will be more than happy to help.

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What is a probiotic?

Probiotics are defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host".

How do probiotics work?

Probiotics have been shown to work by the following mechanisms:

  • Competition for nutrients

Within the gut, beneficial as well as pathogenic microorganisms will be utilising the same types of nutrients. This results in a general competition between microorganisms for these nutrients. When a probiotic is administered there is an overall reduction in nutrients available for pathogenic bacteria and consequently this minimises the levels of pathogenic microorganisms.

  • Competition for adhesion sites

Probiotics can attach to the gut wall and form colonies at various sites throughout the gut. This prevents pathogenic bacteria from gaining a foothold, resulting in their expulsion from the body.

  • Improvement in digestion

Probiotics have been shown to increase the efficiency of digestion.

  • Lactic acid production

Probiotics produce lactic acid which acts to reduce the gut pH, inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria, which prefer a more alkaline environment.

  • Effect on immunity

Probiotics have been shown to increase the levels of cell-signalling chemicals and the effectiveness of infection-fighting cells (white blood cells).

What makes a good probiotic?

Safety - the microorganism chosen must be non-pathogenic and non-toxic. Within the EU all probiotics must be registered for use in an individual animal species. For example, Saccharomyces cerevisiae (NCYC Sc47) 4b1702 is registered for use in horses.

Viability - the microorganisms within a probiotic product should remain viable during their storage. The probiotics should also be able to pass safely through the stomach so that they can colonise the gut. A good freeze-drying process will enable the product to be stored at room temperature throughout the duration of its shelf life. Microencapsulation will afford protection throughout the low acidity of the stomach.

Sufficient numbers - the concentration of a probiotic must be such that inclusion rates provide a beneficial effect.

Quality assurance - when manufacturing probiotic products, high quality standards and processes are imperative. This ensures that the product meets label specifications and is also effective and safe to use.

Are there any side effects associated with the use of probiotics? Can you give too much?

There are no side effects associated with the use of probiotics. All EU-registered probiotics have to pass stringent safety trials before being approved for use in each species. It is not possible to give too great a quantity of probiotics as any excess will simply pass out in the faeces.

Can probiotics be used at the same time as antibiotics?

Yes, evidence shows that taking a probiotic at the same time as an antibiotic can reduce the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. For the best results, give the probiotic at the opposite end of the day to the antibiotic. Where this is not possible, give the probiotic at least three hours after the antibiotic. The probiotic will not affect the efficacy of the antibiotic.

How do probiotics help horses that have been wormed?

Anthelmintic products (wormers) are used regularly to keep a horse worm-free. Wormers can disrupt the microflora causing a temporary dysbiosis. A short course of probiotics before, during and after the worming regime can restore this imbalance.

What is a prebiotic?

A prebiotic is a non-digestible carbohydrate (complex sugar) which acts as a food source for beneficial bacteria in the microflora and therefore stimulates their growth. Preplex® prebiotic is exclusive to Protexin and consists of fructooligosaccharide (FOS) and gum acacia (a source of arabinogalactan). This dual source prebiotic is of benefit across a larger area of the gut compared to a single source prebiotic.

Do Protexin products require any special storage methods?

We would recommend that Protexin products are stored in dry, clean conditions, out of direct sunlight and kept sealed once the original container has been opened in order to exclude moisture and thermal decomposition. The shelf life of Protexin products, if stored at room temperature, is 24 months.

Do the probiotics survive the very acidic conditions of the stomach?

All Protexin probiotics are microencapsulated which affords their protection through the low acidity of the stomach and enables them to reach the small intestine where they can find sites to grow.

What is microencapsulation?

Microencapsulation is the process whereby the probiotics are enclosed by a protective coating, during the manufacturing process. This allows the yeast to remain dormant until they are ingested.

What is the microflora?

The microflora consists of various bacteria, protozoa and yeasts. These are distributed throughout the length of the gut and coexist in a symbiotic (mutual) relationship in the healthy animal.

What is dysbiosis?

Dysbiosis is the condition of having a microbial imbalance on or within the body.

What can cause dysbiosis?

The main causes of dysbiosis include:

  • Antibiotic treatment
  • Intestinal pathogens
  • Worming
  • Poor nutrition
  • Stress (e.g. travel and shows)
  • Life-stage (e.g. weaning and old age)

The most common symptoms associated with dysbiosis are diarrhoea, colic and altered appetite.

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