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How Do You Treat Ulcers In Horses

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Prevention Of Gastric Ulcers In Horses

how to treat ulcers in your horse

Treatment for gastric ulcers as listed above also serves as effective prevention.

If your horse is prone to ulcers due to their unique lifestyle or environment, your veterinarian may discuss keeping your horse on an over-the-counter medication called Ulcergard. Ulcergard is given daily and is a half dose of GastroGard. It has been shown to help with prevention of ulcers for some horses.

Digestive or calming supplements may also be recommended by your veterinarian to help with prevention of ulcers depending on your horse’s lifestyle and personality.

Clinical Findings Of Gastric Ulcers In Horses

Foals with gastric ulcers are often 26 months of age, and EGUS in foals has been divided into four clinical syndromes: subclinical , clinical , perforating, and gastric outflow obstruction. Most foals have absent or vague clinical signs . However, when gastric ulcers become widespread and severe, classic clinical signs in foals include lethargy, colic, an unthrifty appearance, diarrhea, poor or interrupted nursing, dorsal recumbency, bruxism, ptyalism, frothing or drooling of milk from the mouth, and tongue rolling. Bruxism and ptyalism are signs of esophagitis and esophageal ulceration, which in most foals are secondary to gastric outflow obstruction and gastroesophageal reflux. In addition, esophageal obstruction and Candida spp infection should be considered if these clinical signs are observed in foals.

Importantly, when a foal has clinical signs, the ulcers are typically severe and should be evaluated and treated immediately. Complications related to gastric ulcers are most frequent and severe in foals these include delayed gastric emptying, gastroesophageal reflux and esophagitis, megaesophagus, and acute perforation. Sudden gastric perforation without prior clinical signs occurs sporadically in foals.

Common Horse Diseases And How To Treat Them

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You want to make sure that your horses are healthy and happy at all times when youre taking care of them. Nonetheless, your animals may contract various illnesses despite your best efforts. There are occasions when you cant avoid difficulties, even if you try your best.

You may make life simpler for your horse by understanding what to lookout for, although certain diseases cannot be avoided or cured. If you catch them early, others are simple to avoid or cure.

You should be knowledgeable about the most frequent horse disorders and symptoms to watch out for if you have horses or are considering getting one. Here are a few examples:

  • Give Your Horse Love and a Good Home
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    Can You Identify The Foxtail

    Horses are very resilient, especially with oral problems. Don’t be surprised if you check the next day and the sores are halfway healed or more! If you find they are not healing by week’s end, then there may be a stubborn foxtail embedded or another issue that needs veterinarian attention.

    The short video below shows how to open a horse’s lips. It also includes still shots of the ulcers at the end of the video.

    Understanding Ulcer Medication For Horses

    Horse / Equine Gastric Ulcer Treatments UK

    When it comes to treating Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome, several good options exist, but the specific type of drug/medication and length of treatment your veterinarian prescribes will likely depend on the exact location in the stomach, as well as the severity of ulceration.

    Latsons business partner, equine internal medicine veterinary specialist, Dr. Robert Franklin, explains that the horses stomach is divided into two halves: the top, which is called non-glandular and the bottom, referred to as glandular.

    The non-glandular region is typically the area affected by ulceration, says Franklin. This region typically responds well to treatment.

    GastroGard and UlcerGard, which both contain the active ingredient omeprazole, are the two main drugs veterinarians tend to use for non-glandular ulcers.

    They work about 80% of the time in a 4-week treatment period, notes Franklin.

    However, Franklin goes on to explain that a glandular ulcer does not heal nearly as easily and doesn’t always respond to the typical treatments, so veterinarians often have to rely on a different strategy when treating these types of ulcers.

    Weve used sucralfate in combination with omeprazole to manage glandular ulcers. Some more recent studies have shown that another drug called misoprostol is likely the best treatment for this type.

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    Gastric Ulcers May Be Accompanied By Hindgut Ulcers

    By now it should be clear that you need to have a vet diagnose not only the presence of gastric ulceration, but the specific type of gastric ulcer or ulcers your horse could be suffering from before you can select an appropriate and effective treatment plan. But guess what: once a gastroscopy has determined whether your horse has ESGUS, EGGUS or both its time for your next test: checking to see if he has colonic ulcers.

    Gastric and colonic ulcers frequently go hand-in-hand, with prevalence rates as high as 54% in performance horses. Colonic ulcers or ulcers in the hindgut are harder but not impossible to diagnose, and they have several possible causes, ranging from overuse of NSAIDs, parasite burden, or hindgut acidosis usually as a result of large grain feeds . Many of the warning signs for colonic ulcers are similar to those signifying possible gastric ulcers, including:

    • Behavior indicating discomfort around the flanks, often characterized by a dislike of
    • brushing/blanketing
    • Low-grade anemia

    Diarrhea, intermittent or acute, and recurrent mild colic episodes signal a clear hindgut problem, and absolutely warrant further investigation to determine if colonic ulcers are present.

    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.

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    Why Does My Horse Have Sores In His Mouth

    Possible bit problem: The bit may be exacerbating an existing dental problem. Points, sharp edges, and hooks develop on a horses teeth over time and can cause painful sores on the inside of his mouth, and a bit can further irritate these sores, especially if its too large or ill-configured for the shape of your horses mouth.

    What should I do if my horse has an ulcer in his mouth?

    Keep picking them out until you cant see any more. Check the front of his mouth and the other side. If one side has an ulcer, the other side probably does too. After you have picked it all out, prepare a bottle of warm saltwater and spray it gently into his mouth on the sores. This will help with the healing process.

    Diagnosis Of Horse Ulcers

    Ask the Vet – Detection and treatment for ulcers in horses

    Veterinarians can provide an official diagnosis of a gastric ulcer through a gastric endoscopy or gastroscopy. In some cases, a vet may determine that an ulcer treatment plan is the best option without doing an endoscopy based on the horses symptoms and behavior.

    Testing for ulcers, through an endo- or gastroscopy, requires a 12-hour fasting period. Horses are also unable to have water for four hours beforehand. The procedure itself takes around 10 to 20 minutes and is low-risk.

    If your horses ulcer symptoms are severe, such as colic or teeth grinding, your veterinarian will most likely make an emergency call to provide immediate treatment until they can perform an endoscopy.

    Endoscopies involve a few steps:

    • A fast-acting tranquilizer is given to relax and sedate your horse.
    • An endoscope is guided through your horses nostril and esophagus, then into their stomach.
    • A light and camera show you and your veterinarian any potential ulcers and their severity.

    Its important to note that ulcers on the bottom of your horses stomach are harder to see during an endoscopy, which is why other methods for diagnosing gastric and colonic ulcers exist.

    These testing methods include:

    Talk to your vet about which test option is best for your horse. Depending on your horses medical history, such as a history of ulcers, your veterinarian may opt to use a less invasive test.

    Causes of Horse Ulcers

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    What Causes Gastric Ulcers

    Normally the mucosa of the stomach is protected against the gastric acid by a layer of mucus. However, if the amount of acid is increased or the protective mucus layer reduced the underlying mucosa will be damaged. Some areas in the horses stomach are prone to erosion and gastric ulcers because they naturally lack the glands to produce mucus.

    Suboptimal management, feeding and certain types of medication can predispose a horse for the development of gastric ulcers, including:

    • Diets high in grain and/or low in roughage
    • Restricted feed intake or periods of starvation
    • Stress, e.g. due to intensive exercise or physiological stress
    • Types of medication, e.g. high doses of anti-inflammatories over longer periods

    Foals can develop gastric ulcers at a very early age. Common causes for gastric ulcers in foals are:

    • Diarrhoea or other bowl disease such as impactions
    • Prolonged time between feeding
    • Infections or other general illnesses

    What Are Horse Ulcers

    Horse gastric ulcers are sores that form in the lining of the stomach. Ninety percent of all horses will develop ulcers at some point in their life. Horses have four types of ulcers. Squamous ulcers occur in the upper part of the stomach, close to the esophagus, and are referred to as Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome. Glandular ulcers are found in the lower part of the stomach and are referred to as Equine Glandular Gastric Disease. Pyloric ulcers are found in the opening of the stomach to the small intestines.

    But why are ulcers so prevalent in horses?

    Compared to other large animals, the horses stomach is on the smaller side. In fact, because of the size of their stomach, experts recommend horses should eat smaller meals more often.

    A horses stomach acts like two stomachs in one. The upper portion of the stomach is called the squamous. It does not produce any digestive acids and therefore does not have a protective lining. It is particularly vulnerable to ulcers. The lower portion of the stomach is known as the glandular. It produces digestive acid twenty-four seven and, as a result, has a protective lining.

    Squamous ulcers occur during a horses movement when acid splashes up onto the upper portion of the stomach where there is no protective lining and causes irritation. In some cases, it produces an ulcer. Even though movement can result in ulcers developing, they are preventable.

    Figure 2 The Equine Stomach with permission from Jean Abernethy

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    Should You Walk A Horse With Laminitis

    Fact: Walking a horse with laminitis will cause more damage to the hoof. Your vet will assess the pain and severity of the laminitis your horse has and may provide pain relief and sole support. … You can do more damage to the hoof by allowing the horse to move around. Do not exercise him under any circumstances.

    Acid Damage And Ulcer Development

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    Since the upper squamous portion of the stomach does not secrete mucous to protect itself from stomach acid, acid damage can occur leading to ulceration known as ESGD. Unlike humans who only secrete stomach acid when a meal is ingested, horses continuously secrete stomach acid throughout the day. Saliva contains an important buffer, bicarbonate, which helps to neutralize the stomach acid, but this is only secreted in a healthy horse while they are chewing. For example, if a horse is only fed twice a day, then they may run out of forage in between meals and while acid is still being secreted in the stomach, no saliva is being produced because the horse is not eating anything. Thus, no buffer is sent to the stomach to help protect the squamous section. Therefore, the timing between meals should be kept in mind when feeding horses.

    Horses that are fed diets high in sugar and starch have an increased risk for ulcer development. These starches are rapidly fermented by resident microbes in the gastrointestinal tract and produce acid byproducts which make the stomach environment even more acidic. Furthermore, grains do not require as much chewing as forages, leading to smaller quantities of saliva produced for a shorter amount of time. So not only will the ingestion of grains produce a more acidic stomach environment than forages, but they also do not cause as much secretion of saliva to help buffer the stomach.

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    Which Weeds And Grasses Are Dangerous For Horses

    These are the symptoms of ulcers caused by undesirable grasses in hay. When the hay being fed to your horse has an overabundance of undesirable grasses, your horse will develop red, open ulcers in his mouth. These open ulcers will often have the culprit weeds still embedded in them.

    Ripgut , foxtail , and cheatgrass are just a few common and extremely problematic grasses within the US. There are too many varieties of undesirable grasses to list them all, but these are the most notorious ones, especially the Ripgut, whichcan even perforate a cow‘s gut.

    Note: The Ripgut grass was the culprit in our situation, so the photos and videos you find in this article are of that grass.

    What Is Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome

    In order to treat Skippy effectively, its important to understand the overall scope of the problem. First, a gastric ulcer isnt a disease. It simply refers to a lesion or lesions, which, like gastritis, are also part of a syndrome, or a collection of conditions such as the ones Skippy is currently displaying. All of these symptoms can be lumped together under one parent term used to describe ulcers caused by a more specific underlying disease: Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome.

    Most horse people are familiar with the concept of gastric ulcers. Many trainers and barn managers keep a tube of omeprazole on hand at all times to suppress the production of gastric acid in a horse they suspect may have gastric ulcers. And sometimes, it helps. But its crucial to know what type of ulcer youre dealing with in order to treat it effectively.

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    Why Intervention Is Required

    A horse cannot remove these undesirable grasses from their mouth. These grasses have spines on them pointing in one direction: in. When their feed has a lot of them, they build up in the lower lip, piercing the tender flesh, embedding themselves in their lip. Once one has penetrated the flesh, it’s really easy for more to pile into the hole. One after another, as the horse picks up his hay with his lips, the undesirable grasses drop off their spiny arrows, that in turn, they embed themselves into his lips.

    The horse will continue to eat until he is in so much discomfort he cannot pick up another mouthful of the hay. At this point, it is too painful to hold his lips together and swallow his saliva. He will then stop eating, stand with his lips apart, drooling profusely. The drool will sometimes extend from his lip all the way to the ground.

    Symptoms Of Ulcers In Horses


    If your horse is showing signs of an ulcer, make an appointment with your veterinarian. There are many different symptoms of ulcers therefore, it is important to observe your horse and note any different signs or behaviors. Symptoms may include:

    • Colic after eating
    • Nursing or eating for very short time periods
    • Grinding of the teeth
    • Agitation, as if in pain


    There are several different types of digestive ailments that can affect horses. Like ulcers, these conditions can cause pain and discomfort within the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. Types include:

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    Treatment Of Gastric Ulcers In Horses

    Depending on the severity of the ulcers, treatment is aimed at removing the predisposing factors and decreasing the acid production to allow ulcers to heal. Currently, there is only one FDA-approved pharmaceutical treatment for ulcersomeprazole.

    Omeprazole for horses is available as a prescription paste formulation called GastroGard which has been effective at the treatment and prevention of gastric ulcers in all horses. GastroGard works by reducing the production of stomach acid by inhibiting the proton pump within the stomach that secretes stomach acid. Treatment with GastroGard is recommended to be given once a day for a total of 28-30 days. A recheck endoscopy is generally recommended to monitor the progression of healing.

    Types Of Horse Ulcers

    Horse ulcers often develop in the stomach, though they can also form in the colon. Ulcers in the stomach are referred to generally as Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome, but a veterinarian will provide a specific diagnosis after examining your horse. The two possible diagnoses refer to the region in which the stomach ulcers appear.

    • Equine Glandular Gastric Ulcer Syndrome : The glandular is the lower part of your horses stomach. EGGUS is a rare form of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome because the glandular lining can withstand harsh acids and is less susceptible to developing a sore or lesion. EGGUS occurs more often in racehorses than endurance horses.
    • Equine Squamous Gastric Ulcer Syndrome : The squamous is the upper part of your horses stomach. Its thought of as an extension of the esophagus lining. Research has shown that ESGUS is far more widespread than EGGUS. In fact, of the horses that show symptoms of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome, 60 to 80 percent of them are diagnosed with ESGUS.

    Ulcers in your horses stomach can also lead to the development of hindgut or colonic ulcers. More than 50 percent of performance horses, for example, have both gastric and colonic ulcers. Hindgut ulcers are harder to diagnose, which is why veterinarians may suggest a treatment for them as a precaution.

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