Horse Stomach Ulcers – Treatment and Prevention
Studies reveal that all horses are at risk of developing horse stomach ulcers or “Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome“(EGUS) at some point in their lives. This includes newborns and yearlings, with occurrence rates of up to 50 percent on average.
The condition involves an ulceration of the oesophageal, gastric or duodenal mucosa. Horse stomach ulcers are particularly rife in racehorses with endoscopic procedures revealing them present in over 90% and up to 60% in other performance horses. There are many causes of stomach ulcers in horses. This article will outline the most common causes as well as a guide on the prevention and treatment of this painful, common condition horses suffer from.
Diet is a Major Contributor
More often than not, a combination of the following factors increase the chance of a horse developing ulcers:
- · Low roughage intake
- · Withholding feeding for a long period
- · Training on an empty stomach
- · Stress (including physical and behavioural stress)
·Administration of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (examples of such drugs are Phenylbutazone and Flunixin meglumine) have been known to cause horse stomach ulcers.
Prevention makes for Good Management
Ideally the prevention of ulcers is what you want to aim for. It’s important, especially for the performance horse, to take as many measures as possible to encourage better digestive health. Here are our top tips on how to prevent your beloved horse from developing ulcers. While they don’t guarantee ulcers won’t form, if you follow these tips, it’s certainly a good start:
- Providing as much turnout as possible with other horses
- Offering forage (quality hay or grass) continuously around the clock
- Feeding alfalfa, which is shown to help buffer stomach acids
- Reducing grain-based feed intake
- Providing fats as a source of energy/calories
- Feeding multiple small meals throughout the day (at least 3-4)
- Mixing chaff with grain meals to increase chewing and slow intake
- Using hay nets or slow feeders to increase chewing and slow intake
- Feeding beet pulp, a complex carbohydrate metabolized in the hindgut, for higher caloric needs
How to detect horse stomach ulcers
Currently the only way to accurately confirm ulcers are present in a horse is by having a vet perform Esophagogastroscopy also know as Gastroscopy – in simple terms, stomach scoping Gastroscopy, is a type of endoscopy that focuses on examining the oesophagus (the part of the intestine that carries food from your mouth to your stomach), the stomach and the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). It is usually administered by depriving the horse of food for at least 12 hours.
How to Treat Horse Ulcers once they’ve been confirmed
Once, you have confirmed that a horse has ulcers, it is best you begin treatment straight away. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause behind any type of ulcer, so it can be tricky to treat. You’ll need to work with your vet to come up with a thorough treatment plan. However most vets will prescribe some combination of the following:
- to suppress production of gastric acid and give the tissue time to heal and prompt the horse to eat (further suppressing the effect of excess stomach acid). An excellent option that is very affordable i Abler’s and , which are easy to use, once a day treatments available in paste, tablet and granule form.
- Ranitidine or Cimetidine, to help suppress gastric acidity.
- Antacids, for short-term control.
- Mucosal protectants, to form a physical barrier between stomach and acid.
- A high-roughage, low-concentrate diet
- Removal of horse from heavy work or competition schedule.
- Antibiotics, because bacteria may be a cause
- A nutritional digestive supplement to support healthy gut structure and function, especially of the hindgut while suppressing stomach acids
- Mucosal protectants, such as sulcrafate or pectin-lecithin. These are recommended for use along with omeprazole to aid healing in glandular ulceration.
Additionally, proton-pump inhibitors (i.e. acid-pump inhibitors) can be used in horse ulcer treatment. The acid-pump inhibitors will shut down the production of gastric juices 24 hours after each dosage. It should be noted however that this is only a short-term treatment, as the ulcers can often reoccur.
Ulcers in horses are unfortunately a common condition suffered by the majority of horses at some point in their life. There are certain measures however, you can take to minimize these chances. To an extent some simple diet changes or inclusions can help as well as particular feeding conditions and the minimization of stress. Unfortunately these don’t guarantee ulcers won’t develop in your horse though and a good ulcer treatment. For an affordable, effective solution to horse stomach ulcers visit Abler.com with a range of gastric ulcer treatments.