Sponsored by Kemin Equine

The digestive system has two main functions: 1) digest and absorb nutrients and 2) function as part of the immune system and prevent harmful substances from entering and spreading throughout the body. Both jobs are done by a single layer of cells that line the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) – or the intestinal barrier. If this barrier is damaged Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) can occur and your horse’s health and performance can be impacted.

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Epithelial cells that make up the intestinal lining are tied together by a series of “bonds” called tight junctions that create a barrier. A healthy GIT is selectively permeable, meaning it allows nutrients to be absorbed but keeps toxic substances and pathogenic organisms out. LGS occurs when the lining of the intestine is compromised, allowing these harmful substances to pass from the interior of the intestine into the bloodstream.

diagram of horse's intestine lining

What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Horses are constantly being exposed to a variety of stressors such as extreme weather, disease challenges, diet changes, medications, issues with water quality, exercise or travel can damage the epithelial cells and tight junctions.

stressors leading to Leaky Gut Syndrome chart

What are the Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Each horse can react differently to the effects of LGS, so knowing what is “normal” for your horse is key. It may be that your horse is simply not performing as expected, there might be changes in behavior or your horse becomes girthy when saddled. Loose manure or diarrhea is also often connected to LGS, as well as chronic or recurrent colic.[1]

How to Reduce the Incidence and Severity of Leaky Gut Syndrome

While you cannot always eliminate the stressors that cause LGS, feeding for proper gut health gives your horse the nutrients needed to maintain the protective intestinal barrier and be able to absorb crucial nutrients.

Butyric acid is an energy source for the growth of epithelial cells in the intestine[2] and helps to strengthen the tight junctions that bind these cells together.[3] Zinc also positively impacts the tight junctions and assists in wound healing.[4],[5] For these nutrients to be beneficial they must be released along the entire GIT. This requires them to be encapsulated in a slow release product, such as ButiPEARL Z EQ.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that assist with digestion or inhibit the growth of pathogens. To be effective, probiotics need to be alive when reaching the gut. PB6, a patented strain of Bacillus subtilis found in CLOSTAT, is proven to reach the small intestine alive and inhibit the growth of Clostridium perfringens and several other equine specific pathogens.[6],[7]

While it may not be possible to prevent LGS entirely, interventions can reduce the incidence and severity – increasing your horse’s wellbeing and therefore, your enjoyment of owning a horse! For more information about LGS, visit www.kemin.com/leakygut and follow Kemin Equine on Facebook!


[1] Kemin Industries KEMTalk Series. (2017). Leaky Gut: Symptoms, Causes and Nutritional Approaches to Ameliorate [Video webinar]. Retrieved from https://www.kemin.com/na/en-us/markets/animal/gut-health/018-kemtalk-series

[2] Kotunia A, et al. Effect of sodium butyrate on the small intestine development in neonatal piglets fed by artificial sow. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2004. 55: 59–68.

[3] Peng L, et al. Butyrate Enhances the Intestinal Barrier by Facilitating Tight Junction Assembly via Activation of AMP-Activated Protein Kinase in Caco.

[4] Zhang B, et al. Zinc prevents Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium-induced loss of intestinal mucosal barrier function in broiler chickens. 2012. Avian Pathology. 41: 361–367.

[5] Lansdown ABG, et al. Zinc in wound healing: Theoretical, experimental, and clinical aspects. 2007. Wound Rep Reg 15:2–16.

[6] Comparison of CLOSTAT and Competitor Products by Antimicrobial Activities, Thermal Stability and Gastrointestinal Tolerance, TD-14-00114.

[7] Burke, M. L., & Moore, S. A. (2017). Bacillus subtilis Strain PB6 Demonstrates Growth Inhibition Toward Equine-Specific Bacterial Pathogens. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 58, 84-88. doi:10.1016/j.jevs.2017.08.016.


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