What are Mycotoxins?
Mycotoxins are toxins produced by moulds or fungi and are found most commonly in warm humid climates.
They can be present in feed (grains), hay/pasture and the environment (bedding).
Some moulds and fungi produce one type of toxin whilst some can produce a number of different types. e.g Aflatoxins are produced by types of Aspergillus.
How do Mycotoxins Work?
Mycotoxin binders prevent the absorption of the mycotoxins in the horse’s gut. If mycotoxins are present in feed, hay or pasture they bind to them strongly and are excreted through the faeces.
Yeast based toxin binders are effective for common mycotoxins and do not bind nutrients so can be fed alongside meals. Charcoal or clay products (bentonite) bind nutrients and should not be fed alongside meals.
Avoid charcoal based products around worming time.
What Are Signs of Mycotoxin Poisoning in Horses?
It can be very hard to detect moulds producing the mycotoxins in feeds, forage and the environment.
There are many signs of mycotoxin poisoning in horses and all can either progress slow or fast:
• Weight loss
• Poor performance
• General poor health
• Reduced appetite
• Colic-like symptoms
• Gastro-intestinal disturbance
• Poor coat/skin condition
• Immune suppression
• Inability to regulate body temperature
• Irritable or uncharacteristic behaviour
• Muscle twitching or twitching of the facial features
• Gestation complications – premature or prolonged
• Liver damage
Liver damage can be detected using blood tests in particular the test GGT (Gamma glutamyl transferase). It is an enzyme that can be elevated when the liver is damaged due to mycotoxin poisoning.
How can Mycotoxin Poisoning be Treated?
Feed a yeast based toxin binder to help remove common mycotoxins present. The most prevalent in grain based feeds is aflatoxin.
As there is no data at present on toxin binders covering all types, the next option is to remove any contaminated feed or forage if no improvement to symptoms is seen.
One effective option for mycotoxin removal, immune and digestive health is CEN XtraBalance.
CEN XtraBalance contains a broad spectrum yeast based toxin binder, live probiotics, prebiotics and organic humates.
CEN XtraBalance contains effective prebiotics that block the attachment and development of harmful bacteria within the gut. This strengthens the horse’s natural immune response, thereby reducing risk of disease.
Live yeast probiotics promote strong and healthy intestinal cells and maintains tight junctions in the gut lining. This helps prevent toxins and pathogens “leaking” into the bloodstream.
More info on CEN XtraBalance.
Written by Bryan Meggitt (BMedSc. PGCrtMedSc.)
Biochemist / Senior Scientist and Co-founder of CEN Horse Nutrition
Bryan is passionate about improving equine health through nutrition according to science & nature.