How Can You Tell If Your Horse Has Ulcers
How Can You Tell If Your Horse Has Ulcers?
How does a horse act with ulcers? The majority of horses with gastric ulcers do not show outward symptoms. They have more subtle symptoms, such as a poor appetite, and poor hair coat. The effect on performance is not well understood. Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses with poor performance have a higher incidence of squamous gastric ulcers.
Will horse ulcers heal on their own? Most ulcers in the equine stomach occur at the interface between the glandular and non-glandular portions of the stomach. Ulcers in the stomach can heal on their own, over time, but factors like stress and metabolic status can inhibit healing ability.
How do you get rid of horse ulcers? There is currently only one pharmaceutical treatment omeprazole approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for gastric ulcers in horses. Omeprazole is available as a paste formulation and has been very effective in preventing and treating gastric ulceration in all types of horses.
Avoidance Of Other Horses Or Increased Aggression
Horses suffering from stomach ulcers often have changed personalities.
The most tolerant horse can suddenly seem to transform into an aggressive troublemaker who upsets the whole herd, and the most sociable buddy may become a loner who prefers to stand by himself in the paddock away from the others.
Points 10 and 11 clearly show that such behavioural changes can have a wide range from introversion to aggression.
Here is where you come into play as the animals owner and caregiver: solid knowledge of your horses personality and individual characteristics is extremely important in the ability to judge correctly whether you are dealing with a problem, a bad mood or something else.
Symptoms Of Oral Ulcers In Horses
If you are concerned that your horse may have oral ulcers, there are clear symptoms to look for.
- Your horse is interested at feeding time, yet stops eating soon after he starts.
- The horse’s mouth hangs slightly open or the lower lip hangs down.
- A very common symptom is drooling!
- Small piles of uneaten feed near the feeding area.
- The mouth and/or lips are sensitive to touch.
- You can see visible ulcers inside the mouth, especially along the lower lip canal.
- Beyond these listed symptoms, you should have a thorough look at the hay your horse is eating. Sometimes you can find the culprit in their hay.
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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.
What Should You Feed A Horse With An Ulcer
If your horse has suffered from an ulcer then when it comes to his feed its time to go back to basics and keep it simple. If you keep these points in mind you cant go far wrong:
- Plenty of forage Forage takes longer to chew than concentrates and as a result, produces a lot more saliva which will help to keep the levels of stomach acid under control.
- Little and often Weve all heard it a million times before but feeding horses little and often is crucial for a healthy gut and digestive system, and therefore a happy horse.
- Avoid too many cereals Cereal concentrates dont allow the horse to produce the amount of saliva they need which increases their risk of ulcers. Thats not to say you shouldnt feed concentrates but try to find one that has a higher proportion of digestible fiber
- Include alfalfa Studies have shown that the protein levels in alfalfa make it one of the best sources of fiber when it comes to treating horses with ulcers.
- Dont exercise on an empty stomach You dont need to feed your horse a lot before exercise, a scoopful of chopped fiber is enough. This will ensure his stomach isnt empty and therefore the acid wont be left to slosh around.
- Turn out Turning your horse out as much as possible will not only give him a chance to graze but will also reduce his stress levels. This will help when treating ulcers because itll take away one of the triggers for them.
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Whats The Difference Between Ulcergard And Gastrogard
GastroGard is a prescription drug. UlcerGard is the FDA approved omeprazole product manufactured by Merial for the prevention of gastric ulcer formation in horses. The difference is how those tubes of omeprazole are dosed. If your horse is being treated for a stomach ulcer, your veterinarian will prescribe GastroGard.
How Do Ulcers Develop
The horses stomach is divided into two distinct areas by a structure called the margo plicatus. The upper portion of the stomach is non-glandular and lined with squamous cells, while the lower portion is glandular. The latter produces mucus that coats the stomach lining to help prevent ulcers from the action of the gastric secretions, but the upper portion doesnt. Lesions and ulcers can develop in both portions of the stomach, but the mechanism of development and the predisposing factors are quite different.
The development of ulcers in the squamous portion of the stomach is directly related to intensity of training the more intense the training of the horse, the more likely the horse is to develop ulcers. These ulcers are extremely common up to 90 per cent of horses in some disciplines such as racing have ulcers, and even broodmares and pleasure horses can be affected by this condition. Researchers have proposed a new term to describe this problem: ESGUS .
Researchers havent identified the exact mechanism of ulcer development in the upper portion, but the link to training is well-established. While training, gastric acid normally contained in the glandular portion of the stomach may splash up to the non-glandular squamous cell portion that does not have the same protective mechanisms as the lower portion to prevent acid injury.
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Equine Gastric Ulcers: Special Care And Nutrition
Why Do Horses Get Ulcers?
Equine gastric ulcers can affect any horse at any age. Up to 90 percent of racehorses and 60 percent of show horses, as well as non-performance horses and even foals are affected by equine gastric ulcers. These are the result of the erosion of the lining of the stomach due to a prolonged exposure to the normal acid in the stomach. Unlike ulcers in humans, bacteria do not appear to cause equine gastric ulcers. Horses are designed to be grazers with regular intake of roughage. Since the horses stomach continually secretes acid, gastric ulcers can result when the horse is not eating regularly due to there being less feed to neutralize the acid.
The horses stomach is divided into two parts. The bottom part is glandular and secretes acid and has a protective coating to keep it from being damaged by acid. Ulcers do occur in the glandular portion of the stomach, but this is less common. The top portion of the stomach is designed for mixing of the contents of the stomach and does not have as much protection from the acid. This is the most common place to find gastric ulcers.
Many foals being hospitalized for routine or critical care, or foals in any stressful environment, are commonly and prophylatically placed on medication to help prevent gastric ulceration.
Some horses are found on their backs or continually cast in their stalls since this position seems to provide some relief from severe gastric ulceration.
How Can I Naturally Prevent My Horse Getting An Ulcer
Forage is the most important factor in reducing your horses chances of getting an ulcer but it wont 100% guarantee he wont suffer from one. There are also other factors that need to be taken into consideration but if you follow these simple steps itll greatly reduce the chances.
Increased grazing A horses stomach will continually produce acid regardless of whether or not hes eating and if hes spending a lot of time not eating the acid is just going to build up. If your horse is able to spend at least 16 to 18 hours a day grazing then this will help to neutralize the acid. This is because although the acid is being used to break down the forage, the saliva produced by chewing also helps to create a barrier in the lining of the stomach. To help your horse graze as much as possible dont use hay feeders in the pasture but instead scatter it around.
Regular water Constant access to plenty of water is so important to every aspect of a horses life and the prevention of ulcers is no different. Water will help with your horses digestion but also to wash excess acid through.
Avoid NSAIDs as much as possible Its not always possible to avoid the use of some drugs but if you can, reduce their use as much as possible. Its also a good idea to speak to your veterinarian about any steps you can take to minimize the effect these drugs can have on the lining of the stomach.
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Do Probiotics Help With Ulcers In Horses
can help in the prevention and treatment of gastic ulcers. Some veterinarians also recommend giving probiotics as a way to assist digestion. Probiotics and horse supplements can be beneficial if your horse already has a history of digestive problems.
Signs That Your Horse Might Have Ulcers
Symptoms of EGUS are often subtle and not specific to ulcers. Although most horses show some signs of having ulcers, over half of horses with ulcers dont show any symptoms at all.
With that said, there are a number of specific symptoms that have been directly linked with EGUS. If your horse shows any of the following signs, you should have him or her evaluated by your veterinarian who can perform an endoscopy to look for ulcers in the stomach and small intestine.
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Clinical Signs Ulcer Treatment Is Needed
Clinical signs are vague and are not unique to gastric ulcers but fit many of the common complaints veterinarians hear from owners and trainers. These include: Adult Horses Poor appetite, Colic, Decreased performance, Attitude change, Poor body condition and Weight loss Foals Intermittent nursing, Poor appetite, Intermittent colic, Poor body condition, Diarrhoea, Teeth grinding, Salivation, Pot belly and rough hair/coat.
However, owners and trainers should inquire about ulcer treatment for horses if any or all of the signs are observed or reported in the horse.
How Does A Vet Diagnose Equine Gastric Ulcers
While many signs can point to a horse having gastric ulcers, only a vet can diagnose them officially, using a 3 metre endoscope. If your vet thinks that your horse may have gastric ulcers, they can arrange for an endoscopy to be undertaken. Its a relatively simple, painless procedure, in which a thin optical cable is passed into a horses stomach to check for ulceration.
Bought to you by Merial, the manufacturers of GastroGard®
Merial is now part of Boehringer Ingelheim
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What Are The Symptoms Of An Ulcer
Every horse is different and will display different symptoms but the common things to look out for are:
- Poor appetite
- Reduction in performance
- Lying down more than normal
Some horses will continue to eat the same amount of food but will change the way they eat. Instead of eating all of their feed in one go, theyll eat a little bit of it then walk away and come back to it later. This is because theyre in pain when they eat but are still hungry.
In more serious cases horses have been known to grind their teeth due to the pain and lie on their backs. Its more common in foals, but its thought that they lie on their backs as that position offers some relief of the pain. If your horse is producing brown gastric fluid then its possible that he may have a bleeding ulcer and veterinarian assistance is crucial.
Whats The Best Treatment For Ulcers
Well, from a drug standpoint, the best treatment probably is Gastrogard®. Now by best, I mean that 1) you only have to give it once a day, 2) its in a convenient form, and 3) it has been shown to work.
That said, there are lots of other things that you should consider.
- Ranitidine. Ranitidine is another human anti-ulcer medication. Its sold under the trade name Zantac.® Its also effective as an anti-ulcer medication, and its a lot cheaper than GastroGard®. But its definitely more time and labor intensivenot as convenientsince most authorities recommend that it be given three times a day .
- Dietary management. You can do a lot to help prevent or treat ulcers with diet. In particular, diets that have some alfalfa hay in them seem to be protective. Horses that graze in pastures, or are fed several times a day seem to have fewer ulcer problems, probably because the food in the horses stomach offers some protection against the stomach acid.
- Lower dose. If you want to use GastroGard®, you probably dont have to use the whole tube. Theres no question that full tube treatment is effective BUT a half tube seems to work just as well, and maybe even quarter tube is just as good. Maybe less. If you look at the literature, doses are all over the board. Veterinary medicine needs to study this more.
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Cheap Way To Treat Ulcers In Horses
Stomach ulcers are the primary health epidemic in the equine world. Allianz Insurance and Pet Plan Equine have more than 42 years of experience insuring horses. They have reported that of the “Top Five Most Common Health Problems in Horses,” Gastric Ulcers is the No. 1 ranked health problem in insurance dollars paid out.
More than 80-90% of racehorses in training and 52% of horses of all breeds from 1-24 years old had gastric ulcers during gastro-endoscopic studies. Unfortunately, most people do not know for sure whether their horses have gastric ulcers. For example, adult horses with ulcers can exhibit a combination of poor appetite, dullness, attitude changes, decreased performance, poor body and hoof condition, rough hair coat, weight loss, and colic.
Cost of Treating and Diagnosing Ulcers in Horses
The unfortunate reality of horse ulcers is that they are expensive to diagnose and treat. The only way to truly diagnose ulcers is with a video camera in the horse’s stomach. A video camera is placed up its nose, swallowed, passed through the esophagus and into the stomach. A scope can cost $250. Two are usually required one at the beginning and one at the end of a treatment period to see whether it was effective.
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Are There Different Types Of Ulcers
There are three different types of ulcers that a horse can suffer from depending on whereabouts in their stomach the ulcer is.
- Equine Squamous Gastric Ulcer Syndrome Also known as a squamous ulcer, its more commonly associated with a lack of forage and access to water as well as a change in housing and lack of contact with other horses. It affects the area that covers the top third region of the horses stomach known as the squamous.
- Equine Glandular Gastric Ulcer Syndrome The lower two-thirds of the stomach, and in particular the end of the stomach known as the antrum, are affected by EGGUS . Theses ulcers are more commonly linked to prolonged use of drugs such as NSAIDs as well as bacteria infections.
- Colonic ulcer Sometimes referred to as right dorsal colitis , colonic ulcers form in the large intestine. Theyre not as common as the other types of ulcer but are similar in cause to EGGUS.
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Does Your Horse Have Ulcers
If your horse is showing signs of discomfort or reluctance to work it may have stomach ulcers. Here are some signs to watch out for.
Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome is painful and may affect your horses behaviour and performance. While stomach ulcers are often considered to be only a problem for racehorses, many horse owners do not realize that non-racing competitive horses are also at high risk.
Offer Fresh Water At All Times
Fresh water will help keep your horses stomachs clean and free of toxins, leading to more damage if left untreated. It will also help them stay hydrated while recovering from ulcers, which means they wont get sick or dehydrated during treatment.
Fresh water keeps the stomach contents moving through the digestive tract, so there isnt any stagnation or irritation from food sitting in one place too long.
Offering your horse fresh water at all times also makes it easier for your veterinarian to check out whats going on inside when there arent any food particles floating around, obscuring his view.
When youre dealing with an equine ulcer, every little bit helps so make sure you provide fresh water at all times.
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