What causes hindgut ulcers in horses?
The three most common causes of hindgut ulcers are:
- – anti-inflammatories,
- – acidosis &
- – parasites.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Bute (phenylbutazone) and Banamine (flunixin meglumine) are commonplace in the horse world. They’re given to relieve pain, inflammation and nausea in horses.
While effective for treating inflammation they’re known to have significant side effects on the horse’s hindgut.
These drugs adversely affect mucous production and blood flow to the hindgut. Without proper mucous production and blood flow the colon is more susceptible to the development of ulcers.
This is why vets recommend using NSAIDs for no longer than 5 – 7 days.
Hindgut acidosis is caused by large quantities of undigested grains reaching the hindgut. Once in the colon, these grains produce excessive amounts of lactic acid.
The resulting acidic environment reduces mucous production and kills off the ‘good’ bacteria.
This creates a perfect storm for ulcer formation. The bowel loses it’s slippery coating, the grains take far longer to digest and the presence of acid causes ulceration.
Parasite infestation in horses
Worms cause hindgut ulcers in horses – as well as causing colic, respiratory, cardiac, and digestive issues.
Ulcers occur at the site where the parasite attaches to the colon lining.
Prevention and treatment
To heal hindgut ulcers and prevent them reappearing, treatment should be a combination of medication and dietary management.
Medication for hindgut ulcers
Sucralfate is the best known medication for the treatment of hindgut ulcers. It works by forming a protective film along the hindgut. This protects the ulcers from further damage and allows them to heal.
Minimising grain and maximising roughage is one of the easiest changes you can make to prevent hindgut ulcers. Roughage provides a friendly ecosystem for ‘good’ bacteria in the hindgut. It also stimulates mucous production.
As mentioned above NSAIDs should be used sparingly. I.e. no longer than 5 – 7 days. In addition, horses should be on an effective de-worming management plan to ensure parasite infestation does not occur.