Equine Gastric Ulcer

Ulcers may be one of the most common conditions a horse can develop, 60 to 90 percent of show and race horses will develop the illness. And horses with a more nervous disposition are bound to have ulcers compared to a calmer and easy going horse. Because there are various causes to equine gastric ulcers we may want to start to understand a little more of how a horse digestive system may work. We as humans stimulate what is called hydrochloric acid when we eat; this is found in our gastric juices to help aid digestion and protect the stomach against the effects of enzymes and acid. The same production is found in horses but unlike humans they do not just develop hydrochloric acid when they eat, but it is constantly being produced. If a horse does not eat, acid builds up in the stomach which will start to irritate the stomach eventually leading to more serious problems.

We can start to understand that frequent small meals are required in order to keep the stomach from being empty and causing a less damaging effect on the horses stomach. Such feedings of roughage, the amount and types can also play a role in preventing the increase of stomach acid. The horse’s chewing produces more saliva and by the horse swallowing the saliva helps neutralize stomach acid. Also certain types of medications that may increase the risk of ulcers may be those containing NSAIDS anti-inflammatory or any other medication that may block the production of prostaglandin E2 also known as PgE2 which is a chemical that decreases the acid production therefore when there is a low amount of PgE2 levels in the stomach there is a higher level of acid which lead to ulcers developing.

You may want to look out for symptoms in order to take the right action towards treating equine gastric ulcers. Symptoms vary between foals and a adult horse. The following symptoms may be a red flag of a problem:

  • CHANGE IN EATING BEHAVIOR
  • SENSITIVE AROUND THE STOMACH AREA
  • CHANGE IN ATTITUDE
  • COLIC EPISODES
  • DIARRHEA
  • TEETH GRINDING
  • POOR HAIR COAT
  • EXCESSIVE SALIVATION
  • Treatment is found to buffer the acid produced, protect the stomach from the effects of acid and to decrease stomach acid. Decreasing the gastric acid is accomplished with omeprazole a key ingredient found in such prescription medications such as Gastrogard and/or over the counter Ulcergard -administration may be directed by your local vet and you may want to consult with your veterinarian if you suspect your horse may have ulcers.

    As noted a horses stomach is very sensitive and if a problem progresses to ulcers medication is available however preventatives such as probiotics would want to be used as part of your horse’s diet. Probiotics are live microorganisms which are considered good bacteria that are beneficial microorganisms found in the stomach, in addition we may give probiotics to help balance the potential hydrogen (PH) in the stomach.

    We want to rely on the observation of symptoms to figure out what can be wrong and luckily, there are various supplements for prevention, medications for treatments, and awareness available to help us cure this painful illness developed by equine gastric ulcers.

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