Monday, May 27, 2024

Signs A Horse Has Ulcers

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Visceral+ For Equine Ulcers

Equine Ulcer Treatment – Before and After by Mark DePaolo, DVM

Mad Barns Visceral+ is a comprehensive nutritional supplement designed specifically for horses with EGUS as well as other digestive issues. Visceral+ has been clinically studied in horses and shown to maintain healthy stomach tissue.

Visceral+ is formulated with the highest quality probiotic ingredients, natural nutrients, minerals, and amino acids that naturally support the bodys own healing mechanisms. This supplement provides complete nutritional support for your horses digestive system. Unlike certain ulcer treatments, it does not inhibit the natural production of stomach acid which is vital to proper digestion.

Visceral+ was developed in conjunction with veterinarians who were looking for a natural nutritional formula that could support a healthy gastro-intestinal system.

This product works in four key ways to maintain and balance the horses digestive system:

  • Supports natural healing processes within the lining of the gut, thanks to ingredients like marshmallow root, slippery elm, and glutamine
  • Contains nutritional building blocks such as amino acids and with natural ingredients that nourish the horses microbiome and gut tissue.
  • Offers complete protection to not only the stomach, but the entire digestive system from stomach to colon
  • Supports the immune system by reducing the horses pathogen load which can contribute to ulcers
  • Understanding The Risks And Signs Of Ulcers In Horses

    Most performance horses are at risk for ulcers. How familiar are you with the signs of equine ulcers and the preventive measures to take?

    Ulcers impact 60% of show horses and 90% of racehorses, according to American Association of Equine Practitioners. But racehorses and performance horses are not the only horses at risk for Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome . The painful condition can affect all horses, regardless of age, breed or riding discipline. Equine stomach ulcers are caused by excess stomach acid, which horses often produce as a result of stress, among other factors.

    Nelda Kettles knows the signs of ulcers in horses like the back of her hand. Alongside her husband Larry, Nelda co-owned and operated CK Running Horses for more than 30 years, and after breeding and raising Thoroughbred racehorses, they wanted to give back to the industry. Together, they founded the Thoroughbred aftercare organization, Horse and Hound Rescue Foundation, which to date has found homes for more than 300 off-track Thoroughbreds.


    Can equine ulcers impact a horses competitive performance?

    What causes ulcers in horses?

    Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome is most often the direct result from physical stress and behavioral stress. The list below outlines examples of both stressors on horses, some of which are commonly experienced among performance horses competing in any discipline.

    Physical stress:

    What are signs of ulcers in horses?

  • Poor performance
  • Q: How Do I Know If My Horse Has Stomach Ulcers

    A: Is your horse showing signs of pain and discomfort for no obvious reason? If a few days of treatment with an ulcer medication corrects this behaviour, you can feel confident that the cause was stomach ulcers. A three metre endoscope is used by veterinarians to obtain a positive diagnosis, but placing the horse on an ulcer medication for a few days is valuable when an endoscope is not readily available.

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    How To Diagnose Gastric Ulcers In Horses

    The only way to know for sure that your horse is suffering from a gastric ulcer is to have a vet perform a gastroscopy. Scoping is the best way for your veterinarian to accurately diagnose the presence and severity of ulceration in the stomach and if conditions allow, proximal duodenum. However, keep in mind there could be additional conditions at play such as parasites or hindgut disease that gastroscopy cant rule out. Be aware that most vets will recommend a fasting period of at least 12 hours prior to gastroscopy, and may also recommend that you remove water four hours before the procedure as well.

    Scoping is the best way for your veterinarian to accurately diagnose the presence of gastric ulcers, while keeping in mind there could be additional conditions at play such as parasites or hindgut disease that it doesnt rule out.

    With a 3-meter gastroscope, your veterinarian can visually identify and confirm:

    • whether or not gastric ulceration exists,
    • if ulceration affects the upper squamous region or the lower glandular portion of the stomach,
    • the severity of the ulcers.

    Risk Factors For Developing Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome

    Does Your Horse Have Ulcers?

    Despite much study and the high prevalence of stomach ulcers in horses, the definitive reasons why some horses are more susceptible to developing lesions than others is still largely unknown. We do know, however, that squamous and glandular ulcers do seem to develop in response to different risk factors.

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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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    Learn More

    Q: What Else Can I Do To Reduce The Risk Of Ulcers In My Horse

    A: Here are a few handy tips to keep in mind when you are trying to treat or prevent ulcers in your horse:

    • Try not to exercise your horse on an empty stomach.
    • Feed regular small meals during the day if your horse does not have access to pasture.
    • Allow access to hay day and night for stabled horses.
    • Take regular meal breaks for your horse during transportation.
    • Provide hay nets when travelling long distances.
    • Always have plenty of fresh water available.
    • Keep a diary your notes will help you keep track of any changes in your horses habits, food intake or behavior.

    Dont let untreated stomach ulcers affect your horses performance. Enteric coating provides a proven treatment that effectively heals and prevents gastric ulceration in competitive horses. Speak to your vet today or contact your Virbac Area Sales Manager for more information.

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    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

    Etiology Of Gastric Ulcers In Horses

    Equine Ulcer Diagnosis by Mark DePaolo, DVM

    Equine squamous gastric ulcer disease is associated with repeated direct insult and the erosive effects of extremely low pH fluid normally found in the glandular region of the stomach. Pressure increases inside the abdomen , collapsing the stomach and forcing the acid gastric contents upward , especially in the unfed horse during exercise. Highly acidic contents of the distal glandular portion of the stomach come in contact with the nonglandular squamous mucosa during intense exercise, causing acidification, inflammation, and, potentially, erosions and ulceration to varying extents.

    Dietary factors play a role in the development of EGUS. Dietary factors play a role in the development of EGUS. Diets high in concentrates and low in roughage generate short-chain fatty acids as a result of fermentation of sugars. SCFAs are absorbed by nonglandular mucosal cells, leading to cellular acidification as well as inhibition of cellular sodium transport, leading to cellular edema and eventual ulceration. Alfalfa hay, on the other hand, is high in protein and calcium and acts as a dietary buffer, increasing pH in the stomach and preventing ulcer formation. When gastric pH is high, SCFAs are not lipid soluble and cannot be absorbed by squamous mucosal cells, so their effect is lessened.

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    What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Equine Ulcers

    Not all ulcers will show clear symptoms, and tests have shown that horses can have ulcers without any outward signs. When ulcers cause pain, then horses will show signs of pain. Their behaviour may alter from being touchy and defensive to being angry and aggressive. There have been studies to show the effect of feeding soya fats on improving the behaviour of horses, and also later studies showing that the lecithin from soya does protect the stomach from ulcers it follows that behaviour improves with removal of pain. Signs vary due to the level of pain but also the natural temperament of the horse.

    A horse may be touchy and a change in temperament, grind its teeth, start wind sucking and it may have weight loss. A competition or racing horse can have reduced performance. Unfortunately these outward signs can be caused by other sources of pain so the most direct way is to ask your veterinarian to perform an endoscopy examination. They will pass a tube down the throat and into the stomach. This tube has a camera and ulcers can be seen. There are grades of ulcers and the vet can advise the seriousness of any ulcers detected, sometimes low grade ulcers are found but they are not the source of the pain symptoms.

    Cribbing Or Other Stereotypic Behaviors

    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.

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    Signs Of Stomach Ulcers

    Signs of ulcers in adult horses can be vague and may include:

    • Acute or recurrent colic, particularly after eating.
    • Loss of body condition.
    • Changes in attitude.
    • Frequent lying down.

    Horses with gastric ulcers may be reluctant to eat grain or may take more time than usual to eat the grain. Gastric ulcers also occur along with many other conditions. Horses are often placed on preventative or treatment doses during hospitalization.

    Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome

    Signs Your Horse Has Ulcers

    GUS describes ulceration of the squamous stomach lining. Ulceration most commonly occurs where the squamous lining borders with the glandular lining. The squamous lining has no defence against acid and can therefore rapidly become ulcerated when the stomachs content at this squamous-glandular border becomes too acidic . As weve explained, this happens automatically if the stomach acid is not neutralized by saliva thats produced as the horse eats.

    Symptoms of EGUS may be various and often vague, and a proportion of horses doesnt show signs at all. This can make EGUS very difficult to recognize. Possible symptoms of EGUS are reduced appetite, dullness, poor body condition/weight loss, behavioural issues , performance issues , horses may lay down a lot, grind their teeth or yawn excessively. In some cases, stomach ulcers may also lead to low grade colic. Colic is more common in foals with stomach ulcers. Possible signs of gastric ulcers in foals are excessive rolling, lying on their backs, restlessness, poor appetite or intermittent nursing, poor weight gain, teeth grinding, excessive salivation or diarrhoea.

    Risk factors for developing EGUS are:

    • Low forage diets

    Diet and exercise

    Studies have shown that ulceration is more common in horses fed twice daily , than those fed three times daily , and that periods of forage deprivation of more than 6 hours increases ulceration risk by 4x. Water deprivation increases ulceration risk by 3x.

    Stress and transportation


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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:

    • Weight loss
    • 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.

    What And Why Are Ulcers In The Horse

    An ulcer is a sore in the lining of the stomach wall. The horses stomach is divided into two areas:

    One third is the Oesophageal or Squamous part and is non glandular so no secretions.

    Two thirds is the Glandular region and does secrete a mix of hydrochloric acid, pepsin, bicarbonate and mucous and has a protective mucus layer.

    Science had determined that ulcers should be called Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome or EGUS as ulcers in themselves are not a disease, and have many causes and symptoms. This definition was pertaining to ulcers in the squamous region. However just to complicate things further they have now found that ulcers develop in both areas of the stomach and those in the Glandular region should be referred to as Equine Glandular Gastric Disease EGGD.

    So two areas of the stomach capable of producing ulcers from different causes. The Squamous region is the most common site of ulcers, and a common cause here is due to a lack of fibrous feedstuff. This part of the stomach is affected by the acid from the glandular region 24 hours a day, every day. It does not secrete the balancing factors like mucous and bicarbonate and does not have a good protective lining.

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    Equine Gastric Ulcers: Special Care And Nutrition

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    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.

    The Following Is The Current Best Advice On Feeding To Prevent Gastric Ulceration:

    Gastric ulcers in horses
    • Allow access to high quality forage, predominantly during the day , at a minimum daily rate of 1.5kg/100kg body weight , ideally given continuously or at no more than 6 hour intervals.
    • Multiple forage sources in the stable improve eating consistency and allow foraging activity.
    • There is no difference between hay and haylage as a forage source in relation to ulceration.
    • Straw feeding should not exceed 0.25kg/100kgBWT, and it should not be the only forage source.
    • Free access to fresh water 24 hours a day.
    • Concentrate ration should be split into 3, rather than 2 meals per day
    • Total starch intake should not exceed 2g per kg bodyweight per day
    • Whilst there is no evidence to support the use of specific âgastric healthyâ commercial diets, the use of BETA EGUS approved feeds does ensure that you will not exceed the maximum starch level.
    • Chaff should be added to all meals.
    • Corn oil or rapeseed oil can reduce the amount of stomach acid produced and could increase barrier mucus function in the glandular mucosa
    • Pre-exercise chaff feeding – 2L un-molassed chaff given within 30 mins of exercise may trap acid and limit ulceration, and improve gastric blood supply.

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