Hindgut ulcers in horses, a modern health problem
How did hindgut ulcers in horses evolve? As we’ve said before, horses evolved turning grass into fast. They ate a high fibre diet and got exercise throughout the day in a herd environment. Their digestive system is designed with forage in mind which is why high starch or grain diets can cause such problems in your horse’s hindgut. Health concerns such as colic, hindgut ulcers, and laminitis is from too much starch overloading your horse’s system and causing acidosis (excessive acid) in the hindgut.
Diet high in starch = acidosis
A horse’s digestive system is all about turning food to energy. Many of the foods we give our horses are high in starch which is foreign to their evolution. Starch is digested in the small intestine by enzymes, but they have their limits. More than 1 – 1.5 grammes to kilos body weight per meal and that starch is going to head into the hindgut which isn’t designed to handle it. Once the excess starch is there, it starts to ferment which as you can imagine is not a good thing. That fermentation of the starch increases the production of lactic acid, and that lowers the pH balance and shifts what microbes are in your horse’s hindgut. This low pH balance is what we call acidosis and can lead to hindgut ulcers in your horse.
How to detect hindgut ulcers in horses
So, how do you tell if your horse is having hindgut issues? An excellent question. All horses are individual and show different symptoms, so it’s a question of knowing your horse. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms your horse may show also can show up in other conditions. However the following symptoms may indicate hindgut ulcers in horses.
- colic symptoms,
- decreased appetite,
- losing condition compared to how much they’re eating,
- a susceptibility to laminitis, and
- the usual cribbing, wind sucking, or pawing at their gut.
Treatment for hindgut ulcers in horses
Diagnosis of hindgut ulcers can be problematic as endoscopy can not reach the colon area. Administering sucralfate is known to have given many horses relief from pain associated with hindgut ulcers (right dorsal colitis). When sucralfate is administered it will coat the ulcer which avoids further acid damage. The more grass or hay you can feed, the better off your horse will be!