(507) 301-3400 (507) 301-3400
5224 124th Ct E
Northfield, MN 55057

Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome

Gastric ulcers in horses are probably more common than you think. Studies have shown a prevalence of 25-50% in foals and a frequency of up to 40% in general adult horse population and up to 90% prevalence in performance horse populations. Ulcers in foals are a sightly different issue so this note will focus on adult stomach ulcers.ulcer

Why do horses get stomach ulcers?  

The horse stomach continuously secretes variable amounts of hydrochloric acid throughout the day and night and secretion of acid occurs without the presence of feed material. Horses are designed to be eating forage material (hay or grass) 18-20 hours of the day. We can contribute to ulcer problems when we limit the horse to meal feedings. Additionally, diets high in carbohydrates such as grain meals lead to increased volatile fatty acid production in the stomach. These volatile fatty acids increase stomach lining damage. Ulcers in the squamous mucosa of the stomach are primarily due to prolonged exposure to hydrochloric acid, pepsin, and bile acids. Ulcers occurring in this region are similar to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Syndrome (GERDS) in humans.

Chronic or high dosage use of products like Bute and Banamine can also lead to stomach ulcer formation (which is why you should only use these products under veterinary guidance). This type of medication blocks prostaglandin synthesis. Prostaglandins help buffer and protect the stomach lining. Blocking prostaglandin synthesis causes deceased mucosal blood flow, stimulates gastric acid secretion, and inhibits bicarbonate secretion by the glandular mucosa.

How do I know if my horse has stomach ulcers?  ulcer

The signs of stomach ulcers can be very obvious or very subtle depending on the individual horse and the severity. Signs include: poor appetite or starting and stopping eating, low grade colic, change in behavior or attitude to depression or “grumpiness,” excessive salivation, teeth grinding, weight loss, decreased performance, etc. Stomach ulcers can be seen by passing an endoscope into the stomach via the nose.

How do we treat stomach ulcers?  

Currently, there is only one FDA approved treatment for gastric ulcers in horses, GastroGard (Omeprazole paste, Merial Limited, Atlanta, GA). GastroGard is a paste and is given to horses once daily for 28 days to treat EGUS. It is also labeled for prevention of recurrence of gastric ulcers at ½ dose. The medication contained in GastroGard is the same medication found in the “Purple Pill” Prilosec that is currently sold to humans for treatment of gastric ulcers. Additionally, studies have found that using alfalfa as the forage component of the diet helps decrease acid production and buffer the stomach. Changing the horse’s stressors and diet can really help with gastric ulcer syndrome. Limiting grain meals, increasing pasture time or outside time, and maintaining a regular schedule can really help.

If you think your horse may suffer from Equine Gastric Ulcers, please feel free to call us to discuss your options. We now have a gastroscope and are able to scope the stomach in the field!!

(www.aaep.org provided information for this note)

Recent Blog Posts

Summer Fly Control Starts Now-Tips on how to reduce fly populations without insecticides

It’s still cold outside here in Minnesota with over a foot of snow on the ground and more coming in the next week, but it’s not too early to start thinking about summer fly control on our farms.

Read More
What To Expect When Your Mare Is Expecting

It’s the time of year when we start to see newborn foals….the equine foaling season usually lasts from January 1 to late June. I thought this might be a good time to outline some guidelines for owners with expectant mares.

Read More
An Equine Veterinarian’s Christmas Wish List

It’s the holiday time of year. That gets us all thinking about what we are thankful for and what we’d like to get for Christmas. At Weitz Equine we are so thankful for our amazing clients and patients. You and the way you care for your horses, help us love coming to work everyday (even when the weather is cold and snowy). Thank you for being the best horses and horse owners around.

In the spirit of the season, here is an equine veterinarian’s Christmas Wish List:

Read More

Exceptional Equine Veterinary Care

Weitz Equine Veterinary Services is a full service, ambulatory equine veterinary practice based out of Northfield, MN
and serving the following areas: Carver County, Dakota County, Goodhue County, Rice County & Scott County.

Request Your Horse’s Appointment