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Readers Digest New Chapter on Gut Bugs August 2018

Story: Nicole Weidner

Dr. Scott WeeseAs summer comes to an end, most can agree that bugs like flies and mosquitoes have become strong contenders for a horse’s public enemy number 1. But did you know that some bugs that live in a horse’s gut can actually be a horse’s best friend? The University of Guelph’s own horse gut guru, Dr. Scott Weese, recently put together a new book chapter explaining what we know about the different bugs, known as the microbiota, in your horse’s gut. The chapter is titled The Equine Intestinal Microbiota and can be found in the Equine Acute Abdomen.

Interested in a sneak peek? Dr. Weese provided Equine Guelph with an analogy to explain one of the concepts covered in the chapter. He uses a forest ecosystem to explain how it may be important to look at changes in the population of certain bugs in a horse’s gut when it comes to a horse’s health:

“A forest can contain many different animals, like coyotes, bunnies, birds, ants and beetles. If we introduce some new bunnies and take away some birds, and everything still continues normally, then that’s great. But if something changes the way that forest functions, problems can occur. For example, if we introduce more coyotes, they could eat all the bunnies, resulting in a big change in how that forest functions. Then, the coyotes might ultimately die because there’s no food left, changing things even more. The different species that are there, the numbers of those species, and ratios between certain species may all impact how the forest ecosystem works.”

This might be the same for the ecosystem in a horse’s gut. There may be thousands of different bacterial species, and their numbers, proportions and relationships may be involved in many aspects of gut health. Specific bacteria, numbers and relationships that influence horse health are what that scientists still don’t fully understand, but Dr. Weese covers what is known concisely in his new book chapter.

If you’re interested in learning more about these bugs and other information related to your horse’s gut health, check out Equine Guelph’s upcoming Gut Health and Colic Prevention short course and Colic Risk Rater Healthcare Tool.