Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Causes Of Ulcers In Horses

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Cribbing Or Other Stereotypic Behaviors

Main Cause for Stomach Ulcers in horses

Stereotypic behaviors, such as cribbing, are repetitive and unnatural behaviors that become increasingly fixed. However, these behaviors only occur in a small percentage horses so this is one of the less common signs of ulcers.

Dietary factors such as a lack of available forage have been strongly associated with oral stereotypies like cribbing. However, foals with ulcers may crib-bite as well.

How Do I Treat An Ulcer Naturally

Your veterinarian may prescribe some sort of acid suppressant drug such as omeprazole and while that does work its by no means a natural remedy. Thankfully though there are a number of different natural alternatives to prescribed medication though. Along with treating the ulcer a lot of the alternatives below are also very good natural antacids for horses.

  • Aloe Vera This is one of those miracle plants that has a hundred and one medical and health uses and one of those benefits is in reducing the amount of stomach acid. On top of reducing the amount of acid, studies have shown that it can help to heal an ulcer just as well as omeprazole can.

While it is obviously important to treat the ulcer you also need to understand and treat the cause of it too. Otherwise, the ulcer may have gone but because the cause hasnt itll just come back in time.

Listening To Your Horse: Equine Gastric Ulcer Symptoms

If only your horse could turn to you and say, My stomach hurts! correctly diagnosing gastric ulcers would be so much easier. But it cant, and its not. The often-subtle signs that your horse is suffering from gastric ulcers are easily misinterpreted but can also signal a lot of other medical or even training issues.

Regardless, because gastric ulcers in horses are so prevalent, it is worth considering the typical symptoms:

  • weight loss and/or general decline in body condition
  • resistance under saddle
  • irritability and other changes in attitude
  • lack of energy and stamina
  • loss of appetite
  • behavior indicating discomfort, such as pawing or laying down excessively
  • Wood-chewing and cribbing

All of these are ways your horse tells you its uncomfortable. Even vices like cribbing and wood-chewing, generally thought to be behavioral, are ways a horse can alleviate the pain of ulcers. Chewing on wood releases saliva, which neutralizes stomach acids. And windsucking fills up the stomach with air, thus dropping the acid level.

Also be aware that many of these symptoms may also be signals of a hind gut issue or colonic ulceration. Please consider asking your vet for a complete diagnosis before you commence treatment.

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Symptoms Of Horse Ulcers

Ulcers are, unfortunately, a common part of horse ownership. In fact, 50 to 90 percent of equines experience the symptoms of horse ulcers and later receive a positive diagnosis for them. Performance horses are often at higher risk, with 70 percent of endurance horses and more than 90 percent of thoroughbred racehorses developing ulcers.

As an owner or rider, its crucial to know the signs of horse ulcers because they cause intense discomfort and seldom heal on their own. In fact, only four to 10 percent of equine ulcers heal without treatment.

Keep reading to learn about the symptoms of horse ulcers, as well as the types, treatments and preventative care available to maintain your horses health. As you expand your knowledge as an owner, trainer or barn manager, youll be able to provide better care and help your horses stay comfortable and healthy.

Treatment Of Gastric Ulcers

3 Ways to Spot Ulcer Symptoms in Horses

A combination of medication, adjustments to feeding and changes in management is needed to successfully treat gastric ulcers and prevent them in the future.

Oral medication:

  • Omeprazole is the treatment of choice for gastric ulcers in the adult horse and is usually administered into the horses mouth with a syringe.
  • Sucralfate is considered to be beneficial for the treatment of glandular ulcers in horses.
  • It is essential to know the exact weight of your horse in order to be able to dose the oral medication correctly. Discuss the dose and duration of treatment with your vet.

Changes in management:

  • Natural grazing is beneficial for the horses health as it reduces stress and also aids in buffering the level of gastric acid in the stomach. Keep your horse out on pasture during the day as long as possible.
  • During travelling the horse may benefit from a haynet as this will reduce the production of acid in the stomach.

Changes in feeding:

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Why Do Horses Get Ulcers And What Can We Do To Treat Them\ By Dr Kate \

There are several environmental factors and medications that can increase the chance of a horse getting ulcers. Any kind of stress in the horse results in a release of corticosteroids which can cause decreased blood flow to the cells that line the stomach wall, this in turn decreases the cells capacity to prevent the effects of being overexposed to stomach acid. There are a number of situations or events that can be stressful to horses and lead to ulcer formation such as a change in environment or intense training. Intense exercise can delay gastric emptying, so the food stays in the stomach for longer, allowing accumulation of more stomach acid and digestive factors. In one study 81% of racehorses in California had gastric ulcers compared to only 36% of horses not in any training. Also any horse that has another concurrent illness can be predisposed to ulcers due stress on the horses body or inconsistent eating. The same study showed that incidence of ulcers increased to 88% when the horse had another unrelated clinical problem. Some feeds may also predispose or protect horses from ulcers. Some by- products of digested feed, especially grain, may act synergistically with the digestive acids of the stomach to cause ulcers, while alfalfa, with its high protein and calcium content, may have more of a protective effect.

Severe ulceration with active bleeding of the pyloric region of the stomach.

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What Causes Ulcers In Horses

Before you can successfully treat an ulcer its important to understand what caused it in the first place, knowing what can cause ulcers will also help you to reduce your horses chances, if not eradicate them completely. A recent study showed that 93% of all racehorses suffered from ulcers, while 63% of performance horses were likely to have an ulcer at some point in their life, reducing to just 35% for domestic horses. While these numbers may seem shocking at first it does give us an indication of what a possible cause might be. Most race and performance horses spend a lot of time stabled with little or no forage and a very controlled diet which is why their risk of suffering from ulcers is so high.

Knowing that a horses diet can change their susceptibility is only part of the matter, to fully recognize why its such a big factor you need to understand how a horses digestive system works. Unlike humans, who only produce stomach acid when eating , horses are continually producing acid which is why they spend so long eating and grazing. As a horse grazes the forage slowly moves through his digestive tract and stomach, this process actually reduces the amount of acid thats produced which is why grazing is vitally important for a horses wellbeing. The saliva thats produced while chewing will also act as a barrier, protecting the sensitive stomach lining against acid.

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Why Do Mouth Ulcers Turn White

White patches in the mouth are a common symptom of infection, inflammation, trauma, malignancy, and other underlying conditions and diseases. Mouth white patches result from pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, which inflame the lining of the mouth causing swelling, redness, and ulcer formation.

Common Symptoms Of Equine Ulcers

What Causes Ulcers in Horses-This Horse Guy will explain.

On many occasions, the symptoms of ulcers may be subtle in horses. Some horses will display more symptoms than others. A horse that can appear completely healthy may even be suffering from gastric ulcers.

There are several symptoms in horses that may be a sign of ulcers. Some of the top symptoms include poor appetite, poor coat, change in attitude, reluctance to preform, change in performance, weight loss, and loose stool. Some horses may lay done more frequently, appear dull, and even have mild colic.

In more serious cases, the horse may colic regularly and even suffer from more severe cases of colic. Horses may even frequently grind their teeth. They may lay done even more often, even laying on their backs.

Ulcers can also commonly occur in foals. They may colic on an intermittent basis or be seen frequently laying down. They may have intermittent nursing, as the ulcers are causing discomfort.

In more severe cases, foals may display diarrhea, weak appetite, teeth grinding, and excessive salivation. In these situations, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

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Stomach Ulcers In Horses

, DVM, MS, DACVIM-LA, Equine Health Studies Program, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University

A gastric ulcer is a sore in the stomach lining that occurs when the lining has been damaged by stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Ulcers can also be seen in the lower esophagus and in the entrance of the duodenum . The condition, also known as equine gastric ulcer syndrome, is associated with performance horses, changes in housing or interactions with other horses, stress, and illnesses. Mild stomach ulcers are seen commonly in newborn foals. In most cases, these ulcers cause no signs and heal without treatment. Ulcers can be found in approximately 30% of adult horses, but the percentage is much higher in race horses. They are least common among horses turned out onto pasture and most common among Thoroughbred race horses at racetracks. Ulcers are found in more than 60% of show horses, event horses, western performance horses, and endurance horses. The prevalence and severity of ulcers increase as the intensity of exertion increases. Stomach ulcers develop in as little as 5 days.

Neither signs nor laboratory tests are specific for stomach ulcers. Endoscopy is the only reliable method of diagnosis for this disorder.

Using Advanced Nutrition As A Clinical Tool

While Platinum GI provides a crucial balance between foundational wellness and GI-specific pre- and probiotics, there is a second step in the playbook for horses diagnosed with any level of EGUS. When we have a horse with EGUS, we add Platinum Gastric Support to the Platinum GI that we likely already had the horse on, says Dr. Davis of his protocol. Knowing that we approach our cases from a whole-horse perspective, were making sure the hay source is of a good quality, were potentially looking at a ration balancer, weve prescribed either Platinum Wellness or Platinum GI as a building block and were potentially adding Platinum Gastric Support for cases undergoing treatment for EGUS, outlines Dr. Davis.

I think the best way to look at inflammation as it relates to the gastrointestinal tract is to see it from a preventive standpoint. Prevention is key because once the horse is in a disease state it becomes a battle. CHAD DAVIS, DVM, Davis Equine Sports Medicine

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What Are The Symptoms Of Equine Gastric Ulcers

The symptoms of gastric ulcers vary depending on the severity and the individual horse. Most commonly owners report behavioral changes in their horse. Changes in behavior can be an increase in nervousness while tacking up or riding, a tendency toward a more aggressive behavior , and some horses stop eating and therefore lose weight. Other signs include, but are not limited to, poor athletic performance, dull coat, altered eating behavior, weight loss, diarrhea, and colic. In foals, teeth grinding and excessive salivation are common. Ulcers also occur in the first part of the small intestine and in the esophagus.

The Critical Influence Of Diet

Does Your Horse Have Ulcers?

While grains and concentrates can have a detrimental effect in some cases, forage choices and grazing behavior can both positively and negatively impact a horses propensity for ulcers as well. Pasture turnout is considered to reduce the risk of EGUS as does free access to fibrous feed or frequent forage feeding, notes Dr. Belgrave. While a high-quality, forage- based diet is essential, the type of hay fed can also factor into a horses risk of developing ulcers. There is an increased likelihood of ESGD when straw is the only forage provided, though feeding alfalfa hay has been shown to have a protective effect of the gastric squamous mucosa in adult horses. Dr. Belgrave is a strong advocate for pasture access, and for those times when horses are stalled, he recommends continual and gradual access to good-quality hay while keeping grains and concentrates to a minimum and only feeding them when a sufficient amount of hay is in the stomach to buffer the gastric acid released upon their consumption.

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What Is A Gastric Ulcer In Horses

Gastric ulcers in horses are legions in the stomach lining. Horses secrete gastric acid continually throughout the day. This is entirely healthy for horses that can forage small meals throughout the day.

Gastric ulcers develop when a horse is fed larger meals that are more spread apart, allowing the horses stomach to empty. When there is nothing for the stomach acid to breakdown, it erodes the stomach lining.

Diagnostic Tools And Challenges

While there is a long list of behavioral and performance indicators that can point toward the presence of ulcers, equine veterinary medicine relies on a strong set of diagnostic tools, led by gastroscopy, to definitively confirm, then grade ulcers. Dr. Davis is quick to point out that gastroscopy is a necessity when ulcers are suspected to avoid medically treating suspected ulcers when something else entirely could be going on. For every horse that gets prescribed medication for gastric ulcers without ever taking a look inside their stomach, I always ask myself How do we know if that is a correct treatment? How do we know exactly what condition is going on? When do we stop the medication and what medication would we use? Diagnosis is quite literally a guessing game in the absence of gastroscopy. Gastroscopy allows for a thorough evaluation of the stomach, grading and localization of the ulcers, as well as assessment of the proximal small intestine , confirms Dr. Belgrave.

As the gastroscopy continues, Dr. Davis outlines the next steps. Well pass through the pyloric sphincter in the pyloric antrum into the small intestine. Well sometimes take a biopsy of the stomach or the small intestine, and well do that either in the case of a very ill horse or when the stomach looks really inappropriate. This will also happen in a follow up gastroscopy 20 to 35 days following the beginning of treatment.

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Intermittent Access To Water

During training and competition there can be long periods of time without access to water, particularly during transport.

Intermittent access to water increases the chances of developing gastric ulcers in all parts of the stomach.

Turnout without constant access to water, or frozen water in the winter, might also increase the risk of ulcers.

Giving oral electrolyte solutions repeatedly to horses in competition has also been shown to increase the number of ulcers and the severity of the lesions.

Causes Of Ulcers In The Horse

Diagnostic and Treatment of Gastric Ulcers in Horses

Ulcers are a common problem in horses with those especially in strenuous activities. These occur when the stomach or intestinal lining is damaged and the underlying tissue is exposed. Ulcers cause blood loss and anemia with many negative effects on their health and performance. Gastric ulcers occur in the lower esophagus, stomach and upper small intestine. Colonic ulcers appear in the large intestine, resulting in loss of serous fluid with hypoproteinemia and chronic diarrhea as symptoms.

There are multiple factors causing ulcers in the horse, including:

Legends® GastroTech Supplement has been found to be effective in significantly improving gastric health in actively exercised horses.

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Diagnosis Of Ulcers In Horses

If you suspect your horse has a gastric ulcer, make an appointment with your veterinarian. An ulcer can be serious, and sometimes fatal if medical attention is not given in time. Your medical professional will ask questions pertaining to his health history, look closely at his clinical signs, perform blood work, urinalysis, biochemistry profile, and other laboratory testing in order to rule out any other illnesses and come to a preliminary diagnosis.

Your doctor may perform specific diagnostic testing using enhanced diagnostic equipment. He may use a gastroscope, which is an approximately 2 meters-long endoscope into the stomach of your horse. This is currently the most accurate and definitive diagnostic test used to confirm the presence of a stomach ulcer or ulcers.

This test will confirm the specificities of the ulcers, such as size, severity, and precise location. Typically, ulcers are found in the upper portion of the organ however, ulcers can also be found in the lower section, including the duodenum. The ulcer will be classified between the areas of 0-4, with a 4 having severe lesions. He will communicate with you the extent of the ulcer and let you know the options for treatment.

The 5 Most Important Points For Preventing Stomach Inflammation And Gastric Ulcers In Horses

1. Allow your animals access to grass or hay.

2. Horses are grazing animals with the ability to eat roughage continuously.

3. Try to design the stables in such a way that one horse can see the other horses with which it likes to spend time outside.

4. The second sentence is quite interesting: the American Association of Equine Practitioners recommends toys.

5. For example, one can give a horses a ball with which they can amuse themselves in their stables.

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