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Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

Currently, I am discontinuing new questions. This may change in the future, but in the meantime, please know that It has been a true pleasure serving you. 

Take a look at my Nutrition Library and Tips of the Month for a variety of answers on selected topics. Be sure to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter, Forage for Thought

I also have a growing number of recordings on "Teleseminars on Nutrition Topics that Concern You" as well as the new, Spotlight on Equine Nutrition Series -- printed versions of favorite teleseminars.

And finally, look for my articles in a variety of local publications and online newsletters, as well as the Horse Journal, where I am the Contributing Nutrition Editor.  


All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
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Prebiotic vs. Probiotic

Hi Dr. Getty,

I guess I'm confused. Could you explain to me the difference between a prebiotic and a probiotic? I give my horse Ration Plus and thought it was a probiotic. I just read a post on your forum and you referred to it as a prebiotic, yet the description of the product on your site mentions that it, "improves the digestive bacterial population due to its probiotic activity." Could you please clarify?

Thanks, and I love this site, I have learned so much about equine nutrition from it!

Where are you from? Massachusetts

How did you locate this forum? Internet Search

Re: Prebiotic vs. Probiotic

Hi Suzanne,

Great question! Ration Plus does not contain any live microbials; it contains fermentation products of many bacteria so it actually feeds the existing bacteria, making them healthier and therefore, better able to to their "job." So, in this sense, it is a prebiotic because it is a precursor to more bacterial growth.

A "probiotic" has two basic definitions. First, it can refer to a product that contains live microbes that add to the general microbial population in the hind gut. So, Ration Plus would not fit this definition.

However, another definition of a probiotic is anything that promotes the presence of bacteria in the hindgut, whether it be live microbes or a nutrients that feed existing bacteria. So, using this definition, Ration Plus could also be considered a probiotic. Yeast is a probiotic, as well, but could also, by definition be a prebiotic.

So, bottom line -- Ration Plus and other products that feed existing bacteria are prebiotics, but also fit the definition of a probiotic.

Supplements that provide live microbes to the diet are strictly probiotics, since they are already microbes.

Hope this eases the confusion! The only time I suggest adding a probiotic that contains live microbials is when the number of bacteria in the hind gut has been severely reduced. This can occur during laminitis, or when a horse is taking antibiotics (which kill all bacteria, the bad with the good).

But, to keep the digestive system and its bacterial population, healthy, I like a product that feeds the existing bacteria, such as Ration Plus. It's a prebiotic because it feeds these bacteria, and it's also a probiotic because it promotes the growth of more bacteria.

Best regards,

Dr. Getty

Where are you from? Bayfield, CO