Hindgut ulcers in horses are a common, painful affliction for horses. Unfortunately, they’re hard to diagnose but the good news is, you can treat them effectively and provide nearly immediate relief to your horse.
Gastric Ulcers vs. Hindgut Ulcers
Gastric ulcers occur in horses stomach & upper gastrointestinal tract. They are diagnosed through diagnostic approaches like gastroscopies or accupressure.
Hindgut ulcers in horses are slightly less common and much harder to diagnose. Hindgut ulcers occur in the area from the small intestine to the anus. Most of these appear in the large colon and small colon.
Hindgut vs Gastric Ulcers – Identifying the Symptoms
Causes of hindgut ulcers in horses
There are three main causes of hindgut ulcers in horses. These are:
- parasites (namely tapeworm),
- hindgut acidosis and
- overuse of certain medications.
Tapeworms live in the gastrointestinal tract of horses and other animals. The site where they attach to the intestine can cause ulcers.
As the name suggests, hindgut acidosis occurs when the horse’s hindgut becomes too acidic.
This happens when undigested simple carbohydrates reach the hindgut. These starchy carbs produce lactic acid which kills ‘good’ bacteria and damages the mucous lining of the bowel.
Furthermore, this reduces the hindgut’s mucous production which leaves the surface of the hindgut vulnerable to ulceration.
Another cause of hindgut ulcers is prolonged exposure to Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). The most common is phenylbutazone or ‘bute’.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are used to reduce inflammation and pain in horses. However, they’re proven to cause ulcers and kidney damage with long-term use.
Vets recommend a maximum treatment period of 3-7 days.
Prevention of hindgut ulcers in horses
Horses become infected with tapeworm when they eat hay or grass infected with tapeworm larvae. These develop into adult tapeworms inside the horse’s intestines. (How to identify tapeworms in horses).
It is important to be aware that not all wormers kill tapeworms. These particular parasites can be treated with one of two drugs — praziquantel and pyrantel.
You can reduce parasite populations on the pasture by regularly removing droppings, and resting grazing and rotating sheep and cattle on to horse paddocks.
Preventing hindgut acidosis
- Grain meals should be small and fed multiple times a day, not exceeding more than 2.5kg
- Grains should be processed, preferably micronized or extruded.
- Horses should have constant access to forage such as pasture grass or hay. The absolute minimum is 1.5% of the horse’s body weight in forage daily.
Limiting prolonged use of NSAIDs
Devils Claw is a natural alternative to bute. Devil’s Claw contains high concentrations of a chemical called harpogoside which is a natural anti-inflammatory. The herb has analgesic (painkilling) properties and contains several antioxidants, which can speed healing.
N.B> Devil’s Claw is not recommended for prolonged use of more than 3 – 4 months.
Treatment for Hindgut Ulcers
Sucralfate is the best treatment for hindgut ulcers.
It works by forming a viscous gel over the ulcer craters. This protects them from further damage, giving the ulcers a chance to heal.
In addition, sucralfate also:
• Inhibits the action of pepsin, the enzyme that breaks down protein.
• Increases the production of prostaglandins, which protect the stomach lining
Importantly, sucralfate provides nearly immediate relief to horses.