Dietary Management To Reduce The Risks For Developing Gastric Ulcers
What can you do to keep the stomach healthy and help reduce your horse’s risks for developing gastric ulcers?
- Increase the amount of forage in the diet to allow for longer chew time, stimulating more production of saliva which can help buffer the stomach. Do not feed straw as the sole forage source.
- Use a small-holed hay net to help extend the amount of time it takes a horse to consume hay.
- Feed small, frequent grain and forage meals to mimic a horses natural digestive pattern, keeping portions of grain under 0.5% of the horses body weight at each meal.
- Limit starch intake and utilize fat as a calorie source when necessary.
- Always provide clean, fresh water and salt at all times.
- Offer the horse some hay or forage just prior to riding, creating a mat in the stomach which helps to reduce acid splashing during exercise.
Feed Natural Ulcer Supplements
Several natural dietary supplements have good evidence for helping to maintain stomach and hindgut health in horses.
You can find out more in our research review of the Top 16 Natural Ulcer Supplements for Horses.
Some ingredients that may be beneficial for ulcer-prone horses include:
- Probiotics and prebiotics
- 100% safe & natural
Determine Your Horses Nutritional Needs
To create an optimal feeding program, you should evaluate your horses current diet, health status and nutritional needs.
All horses need to engage in species-appropriate foraging behaviours, which means they need to be eating for at least 12 hours a day.
In addition to this, they need to meet their nutritional requirements for energy, protein, fat, minerals and vitamins.
Factors that alter your horses nutritional requirements include:
- Reproductive status
From there, tailor your feeding program to your individual horse, to their housing situation and to which feeds are available in your geographic region.
Analyzing the macro- and micro-nutrients that your horses diet currently provides will help you fill in any potential gaps.
This is best achieved with a hay analysis. Closely examining the feed tags for any complete feeds or ration balancers you provide is also important to assess whether they are the right option for your horse.
At Mad Barn, we design thousands of feeding programs for horses every year and all of our diet plans start with these principles in mind.
If you need help with analyzing your horses current diet, submit your feeding program online and our nutritionists can provide you with a complementary review.
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What Are The Symptoms
The clinical signs are variable between horses with some patients displaying no symptoms at all. The signs are as follows but are vague and can be inconsistent
- Variable appetite
- Resistance to leg aids or grooming
- Stereotypies such as cribbing
The most important consideration is any change in behaviour whether it be appetite, manner, eating behaviour or poor performance.
A Recap Of Ulcer Prevention In Horses
- Avoid long periods without food. Feed frequent small meals.
- Feed ad lib hay – If feed is withheld, the pH in the stomach drops to 2 in 21 hrs.
- Place feed bins on the ground to simulate the horses normal grazing position as it helps his chewing action, stimulating the production of more saliva which in turn helps the passage of food to the stomach.
- Do not exercise on an empty stomach as this allows acid to attack the stomach wall when it is empty.
- Feed a small amount of lucerne chaff or hay prior to work. Lucerne helps in two ways by acting as a physical barrier and secondly the calcium in the lucerne buffers the acid.
- Avoid physical and behavioural stress.
- Avoid long treatments with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Phenylbutazone.
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Keep To Scheduled Feeding Times
The horse’s feed should be supplemented with targeted mineral feeds as required in order to prevent nutrient deficiencies and their possible negative consequences. Horses become accustomed to consistently-kept feeding times. Delayed feeding may cause a stressful reaction, increasing the production of stomach acid which may result in an irritation of the stomach lining since this cannot be buffered by the intake of roughage.
If the horse is known to have a sensitive stomach or to have acute digestion problems, its stomach or the entire digestive tract should be given some help. It is advisable to offer hay in close-meshed hay nets so that the horse always has something to chew and is busy eating the hay over a longer period, which lengthens feeding times and promotes saliva production.
My Horse Has Ulcers And Doesnt Seem To Want To Eat Much Hay He Really Doesnt Seem To Like Chops What Else Can I Use So He Spends More Time Eating
If you can turn out on good grazing then that would be a great starting point. In addition it would be good to get some alfalfa into his ration as it is a natural buffer to acidity. There are some pelleted versions of alfalfa that you can use: pure Alfalfa Pellets can be fed dry or dampened with water if he prefers them that way or Alfa-Beet which is a combination of unmolassed sugar beet and alfalfa which must be fed soaked before feeding. Although a horse would tend to consume a pelleted/soaked version of alfalfa more quickly than chopped fibre and therefore spend less time chewing, the main aim in this situation is to increase fibre intake and find a form of fibre your horse likes. Once the ulcers have healed you may find your horses appetite picks up a bit and you can try introducing some chopped fibre again.
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There Are Some Well Established Practices That Are Known To Increase The Risk Of Horses Having Ulcers:
- Feeding too little fibre chewing fibre produces more than double the amount of saliva than chewing concentrates
- Feeding 1% of bodyweight as grain resulted in a marked increase in ulcers in non-exercised horses
- Feeding 2g/kg BW starch per day or 1g/kg BW per meal more than doubled the risk of a horse having ulcers. If you would like to work out how much starch your horse is receiving then why not try our Starch Intake Calculator | Dengie Horse Feeds
Contributing Factors To Equine Glandular Gastric Disease :
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Best Probiotics For Horses: Reviews Buying Guide Faq
Is your horse having loose stools, constipation, or digestion problems? Or are you stressing over the fact that your majestic pet is struggling with weight issues? If you are nodding your head in a yes, then its about time you start looking for the best horse probiotic supplement! Probiotics make a huge difference to help maintain a healthy gut flora, improve the digestive system, and are essential for the overall health of the horse. Moreover, adding the best probiotic for your horses diet will lead to a healthier immune system. Keep reading to discover the 10 best probiotics for horses.
How Are Gastric Ulcers Diagnosed
Gastric ulcers can only be diagnosed definitively through gastric endoscopy, or gastroscopy, which involves placing an endoscope into the stomach and looking at its surface. This procedure is easy to perform, is minimally invasive, and allows for the evaluation of the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. A tentative diagnosis can be made based on clinical signs and how the horse responds to therapy.
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How To Determine The Right Probiotics For Your Horse
Common examples of when to use a cooling probiotic versus a warming probiotic:
Look for a COOLING probiotic if:
- your horse has undergone antibiotic therapy
- your horse has gastric or hindgut ulcers
- your horse is under stress, particularly in summer months.
- your horse has diarrhea. In cases of longterm diarrhea add a smectite or bentonite clay to help soak up the toxins.
- your horse is running a temperature.
Look for a WARMING probiotic if:
- your horse is underweight.
- your horse is a hard keeper.
- your horse is a senior who needs digestive support.
- your horse has hard, dry stools.
IF your horse needs both a cooling and a warming probiotic, do not give them at the same time. Try to space out the cooling from the warming by 6 to 8 hours.
Look for a NEUTRAL probiotic if:
- your horse struggles with IBS.
- your horse has limited exposure to fresh grass.
- your horse needs non-specific probiotic support.
Senior horses may benefit from a warming probiotic for additional digestive support.
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So What Can We Conclude
There have been no negative effects in the squamous region of the stomach in horses of any age from feeding alfalfa
The only group where an effect with alfalfa chaff has been seen is weaned foals there were no issues associated with feeding alfalfa pellets which would still provide some natural buffering from the calcium they contain
Alfalfa chaff or chop is generally considered beneficial for adult horses at risk of or prone to EGUS
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What Are Gastric Ulcers In Horses
Gastric ulcers in horses is a common concern as it can affect any horse at any age, causing mild to severe disease. Ongoing, active research shows that up to 90% of racehorses and 60% of show horses, as well as non-performance horses and foals are affected by gastric ulcers. In recent years, studies show that most horses may not even exhibit outward signs when dealing with stomach ulcers.
A horse’s stomach can be divided into two parts, glandular and non-glandular. The bottom part of the stomach is the glandular region where stomach acid is produced and created to help with digestion. The top portion of the stomach is non-glandular or the squamous portion of the stomach. The squamous portion is where most of the mixing of the food happens and is the most common site of ulcer formation. Unlike the glandular region that has a protective coating to help prevent damage from stomach acid, the non-glandular or squamous region does not have this coating. Because of this it is much more prone to damage from the stomach acidthus producing stomach ulcers.
Unlike humans that only produce stomach acid while eating, horses are constantly producing stomach acid as they are meant to eat small portions of food at a time and constantly graze. Horse stomachs produce up to 9 gallons of acid per day, even when they are not eating.
Feeding Strategies That Increase The Risk Of Gastric Ulcers In Horses:
- Feed for horses with ulcers might be lacking in fibre chewing fibre produces more than double the amount of saliva than chewing concentrates which helps to neutralise acidity in the horses stomach
- Feeding 1% of bodyweight of grain resulted in a marked increase in ulcers in non-exercised horses
- Feeding 2g/kg BW starch per day or 1g/kg BW per meal more than doubled the risk of gastric ulcers in horses
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What Should I Feed My Good Doer Prone To Ulcers
Whilst Dengie Healthy Tummy, Alfa-A Oil or Performance Fibre have the BETA feed approval mark for equines prone to gastric ulcers, these feeds all supply 11.5MJ/kg or more digestible energy which makes them higher calorie feeds that are less suited to the good do-er. Whilst the overall calorie intake could be controlled by limiting the amount fed, it is more beneficial for your horse to have more of a lower calorie feed to provide more chew time. Dengie have other alternatives which would be better suited to good doers such as Healthy Hooves Molasses Free, Hi-Fi Molasses Free or Hi-Fi Lite.
Available from your local Carrs Billington Country Store
Horses With Ulcers: A Feeding Guide
8 April 2022
Gastric ulcers are a commonly occurring issue in domesticated horses which can cause severe pain, behavioural changes and reduced performance.
Although racehorses are more likely to develop ulcers, any horse or pony can be affected by them, so its vital that owners can spot the signs.
In this guide, we run through the common symptoms and causes of stomach ulcers in horses, as well as offering advice on what to feed horses with ulcers.
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Diagnosing Ulcers In Horses
There is only one sure way to confirm ulcers, Esophagogastroscopy, or simply “stomach scoping.” No food is to be fed six to eight hours before scoping. A light sedative is given five minutes before the passing of the three-meter scope, similar to passing a stomach tube, down the horse’s oesophagus.
The severity of stomach ulcers is rated in grades from an inflamed but intact epithelium , superficial erosions of the mucosal surface to single superficial erosions of the mucosal surface to multiple actively haemorrhaging hyperaemic .
Depending on the grade, ulcer treatment may be required for your horse.
Gastric Ulcers In Horses Faqs
What do horses do when they have ulcers?
Most commonly, horses show no outward symptoms or have very subtle changes in behavior such as teeth grinding, attitude changes, decreased appetite, or poor performance.
What is the best thing for ulcers in horses?
Prevention is the best practice for ulcers. Make sure to provide your horse with a happy, low-stress lifestyle by providing daily turnout and socialization as well as good feeding practices.
What is a squamous gastric ulcer?
Squamous gastric ulcers are ulcers that form on the non-glandular part of the stomach and are the most common type of stomach ulcers.
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Is Hay Or Haylage Better For Horses With Ulcers
Haylage is much closer in texture and nutritional value to the horses natural diet of grass. It is much more digestible than hay and if your horse is prone to gastric ulcers or colic you will likely opt for feeding haylage over hay. Horses that are fussy eaters or poor doers often do much better on haylage.
Best Horse Ulcer Supplements For A Healthy Gut
Is your mighty horsey showing signs of poor appetite or discomfort lately? Have you noticed it lying down more than usual, grinding its teeth, being reluctant to perform, or having loose feces? The best horse ulcer supplements can solve these problems and many more.
Looking after a sick horse can be challenging, especially if you havent had to deal with it before. Exploring multiple gut health supplements for horses can be intimidating too. This is why this article compiles all the necessary information you may need regarding which gut ulcer supplement you should buy for your horse. Keep reading till the end to find out the best horse ulcer supplements available in the market today.
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How Veterinarians Diagnose Gastric Ulcers In Horses
To diagnose gastric ulcers your veterinarian will start with a history and physical exam. If your veterinarian believes gastric ulcers could be affecting your horse, they will likely recommend a flexible endoscopy of the stomach as this is the best way to diagnose ulcers in horses. This procedure can be performed on the farm, at a veterinary clinic, or hospital. The horse is commonly given mild standing sedation and a twitch is placed on their nose. During the procedure, a three-meter fiberoptic scope is placed in the horses nose and passed through the esophagus into the stomach. The veterinarian will be able to visualize the surface of the stomach through a camera to look for any ulceration of the lining. Most horses tolerate this procedure very well with little to no side effects.
Some preparation is involved with endoscopic procedures so that the veterinarian can visualize the stomach. Your veterinarian will provide the necessary guidelines before the procedure, but these generally include:
Withdrawal of food for at least 12 hours before the procedure
Removing water 3-4 hours before procedure
Some horses may require further fasting
Top Tips For Feeding The Good Doer Horse With Gastric Ulcers
- Make fibre the foundation of the diet, both long stem and short chop, topping up with a supplement or balancer to provide a balanced diet.
- Keep fibre intake as maximal as possible whilst managing bodyweight by using late cut hay and other lower calorie fibre sources such as Hi-Fi Lite, Hi-Fi Molasses Freeor Healthy Hooves Molasses Free.
- Feed regular forage feeds split into as many small meals as possible when your horse is not at grass leaving a larger quantity overnight.
- Feed a small alfalfa-based meal prior to exercising.
Available from your local Carrs Billington Country Store
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What Are Gastric Ulcers Or Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome
Gastric ulcers or EGUS can be caused by prolonged exposure of the stomach lining to gastric juices resulting in ulceration and sometimes bleeding. The horses stomach can broadly be divided into two sections the upper non-glandular region where food enters the stomach, and the lower glandular region where hydrochloric acid is produced. Although the lower region is constantly exposed to acid, it generally has adequate protection and lesions are most commonly found in the upper region. Lesions in the lower region are unlikely to be diet related and may be more common in foals and older horses.
Get in touch with our expert nutritionists for more information on gastric ulcers in horses.
Long term nutritional management plays a key role in helping to reduce the risk, frequency and severity of gastric ulcers. New research in collaboration with SPILLERS is the first to show that changes in the diet can help to manage gastric ulcers post omeprazole treatment. In this study, a change in diet maintained the beneficial effects of omeprazole 6 weeks after treatment had stopped. In contrast, horses in the ‘no diet change’ group had regressed and at the end of the study, there was no significant difference between pre and post treatment gastric ulcer scores.