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Symptoms Of Stomach Ulcers In Horses

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Treating Gastric Ulcers In Horse: Is It Squamous Or Glandular

Symptoms of Gastric Ulcers in horses?

Youll need to work with your vet to come up with a thorough treatment plan for a horse you suspect has ulcers of any type. But most vets will prescribe some combination of the following.


  • Omeprazole to suppress production of gastric acid and give the tissue time to heal and prompt the horse to eat .
  • Ranitidine or Cimetidine, to help suppress gastric acidity.
  • Antacids, for short-term control.
  • Removal of horse from heavy work or competition schedule.


  • Omeprazole, a treatment that suppresses gastric acid production to allow healing to take place, particularly in the squamous region. While it has been shown to be less effective for treating glandular ulcers, most vets still recommend it as an aid for some healing. However, it would likely be prescribed in higher doses for longer and used in tandem with additional treatments.
  • Mucosal protectants, such as sulcrafate or pectin-lecithin. These are recommended for use along with omeprazole to aid healing in glandular ulceration.
  • Antibiotics, because bacteria may be a cause of some EGGUS.
  • A nutritional digestive supplement to support healthy gut structure and function, especially of the hindgut while suppressing stomach acids.
  • A high-roughage, low-concentrate diet.

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.

Wild Horses Are Different To Stable Horses

In the wild, horses have 60,000 chews in a day producing 20 litres of saliva. Saliva naturally helps protect the stomach. Wild horses are constantly tearing short strands of grass which encourages the production of saliva.

Stabled horses do not need to work for their food and often their hay/haylage/fodder is in long strands. These long strands requires far fewer chews with a very large reduction in the production of saliva.

When stabled horses have eaten their allocated feed it passes through the stomach, leaving the acid to attack the stomach itself!

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Signs That Your Horse Might Have An Ulcer

Ulcers in horses can be challenging to identify as they sometimes present with quite generic symptoms. Only veterinary diagnosis will confirm whether your horse has ulcers or not but what are the telltale signs that you should keep an eye out for? Read our handy guide and become better informed.

Ulcers can present with a range of symptoms that can easily be attributed to other conditions. If you suspect something is wrong then your vet should evaluate your horse as it could be ulcers or a different issue. Ulcers rarely heal on their own without veterinary intervention. If your horse does have ulcers, your vet will need to determine which type they are as there are two different classifications:

  • ESGUS Ulcers in the upper region of the horses stomach which is called the Squamous, really the lower end of the oesophagus lining and the most common of the two types of ulcer
  • EGGUS Ulcers in the lower glandular region of the horses stomach

These are some of the symptoms a horse with ulcers can exhibit:

  • Resistance when ridden this can manifest in lots of different ways and maybe subtle and inconsistent right through to an obvious change of behavior. It is important to make sure there are no other underlying causes which could be contributing to a behavioral change such as a saddle fitting issue, a sore back or even a change of rider to someone less competent.
  • Types Of Ulcers In Horses

    Does Your Horse Have Ulcers?

    A horse with EGUS can develop ulcers in four main parts of the digestive system:

    • Lower part of the esophagus
    • Nonglandular region of the stomach
    • Glandular region of the stomach
    • Upper small intestine

    The glandular region of the stomach produces acid but also produces natural defenses such as mucous and bicarbonate to buffer the acid and protect the cells in that region. In contrast, the nonglandular squamous region is not protected by these factors.

    Ulcers are most commonly found in the nonglandular region of the stomach.

    Ulcers also commonly occur in the lower part of the esophagus. This may be due to acid reflux associated with unnatural feeding practices, like high grain diets, that can lead to decreased pH in the stomach. Reflux of acidic fluids may also occur with gastric compression during intense exercise which might explain why so many racehorses develop ulcers.

    Ulcers in the glandular region of the stomach are considered rare by many veterinarians, but some researchers suggest that they may be more common than believed. These types of ulcers have been associated with the overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as bute and banamine .

    Also Check: How To Know You Have A Ulcer

    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.

  • How nutrition plays a role

    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.

  • Base as much of the diet on forage as possible, maintaining a high fibre, controlled starch diet
  • Ensure water is available at all times
  • What Are The Clinical Signs Of Gastric Ulcers

    The majority of horses with gastric ulcers do not show outward clinical signs and can appear completely healthy. Subtle signs may include:

    • Poor appetite
    • Low grade colic
    • Girthiness

    More serious cases will show abdominal pain and/or grinding of the teeth. Some horses are found on their backs since this position seems to provide some relief from severe gastric ulceration. Others will walk away from food if they experience discomfort when the food first reaches the stomach.

    Clinical signs of ulcers in foals include intermittent colic , frequent recumbency, reduced nursing, diarrhea, poor appetite, a pot-bellied appearance, grinding of teeth, and excess salivation. When a foal exhibits clinical signs, the ulcers are likely to be severe and should be diagnosed and treated immediately.

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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.

    Q: What Harm Do Stomach Ulcers Cause My Horse

    Equine GI System: Stomach Ulcers in Horses

    A: In early stages of the disease it is the pain and discomfort of stomach ulcers that influence a horse’s eating behaviour, temperament and well-being. Some horses tolerate ulcers better than others and clinical signs may not be obvious. In these animals, a relative improvement in appetite or temperament may be evident within days of commencing treatment. Haemorrhaging ulcers are common in horses that have been in training for longer than eight weeks and perforation of the stomach can result if a horse remains untreated, usually with a fatal outcome.

    Also Check: How To Stop Ulcers From Hurting

    How Can Gastric Ulcers Be Prevented

    The following management techniques may assist in preventing ulcers:

    • Feed horses frequently or on a free choice basis . This helps to buffer the acid in the stomach and stimulate saliva production, natures best antacid.
    • Reduce the amount of grain and concentrates and/or add alfalfa hay to the diet. Discuss any feed changes with your veterinarian so that medical conditions may be considered.
    • Avoid or decrease the use of antiinflammatory drugs. If anti-inflammatory drugs must be given, use newer, safer ones such as firocoxib, if appropriate and under veterinary recommendations.
    • Limit stressful situations such as intense training and frequent transporting.
    • If horses must be stalled, allow them to see and socialize with other horses as well as have access to forage.

    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.

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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

    Are There Different Types Of Ulcers

    Your Horse Has Ulcers... How To Start Healing Them Right ...

    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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    Redmond Daily Gold Syringe Natural Healing Clay For Gastric Ulcers In Horses

    • WHEN WOULD I USE THIS? – The Daily Gold syringe can help stop diarrhea in your foal or mature horse. The syringe is a fast solution for stressful situations like trailering, competing, waiting in the start gate, etc. Daily Gold Stress Relief Paste is a quick way of calming your horse at the first sign of symptoms associated with stress, and a way to alleviate ulcer pain
    • WHAT IS DAILY GOLD? – Daily Gold is a completely natural montmorillonite clay that contains 68 minerals and 3% sodium chloride. These same 68 elements are found in the tissues of animals and people they are the building blocks of life. Daily Gold products contain no fillers, no grains, no sweeteners and no artificial colors or flavors.
    • WHAT DOES IT DO? – Daily Gold has a way with digestive issues. Unique molecules attract and bind toxins that cause stomach trouble while its high pH helps buffer acid and make the stomach more alkaline
    • HOW TO USE? – Place the tip of the syringe in the corner of your horses mouth. Raise your horses head. Move the syringe tip around the tongue. Inject the past
    • HOW MANY DOSES DO I NEED? – It depends on the issue. You may do 1 dose per day for 1 or 2 days and then continue with the Daily Gold Stress Relief pouch, or you could do a does every day for a week or two

    Can An Ulcer Heal On Its Own

    In the vast majority of cases, an ulcer wont heal on its own and your horse will need some sort of intervention, either medicinal or natural. That said a very small percentage of horses will recovery completely on their own without any sort of treatment. While a small number of horses will recover on their own its better to presume they wont rather than presume they will.

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    Diagnosis Of Equine Gastric Ulcers:

    The only way to definitively diagnose equine gastric ulcers is through gastric endoscopy, or gastroscopy, which involves placing an endoscope into the stomach of the horse and looking at its surface. This procedure is relatively easy to perform and minimally invasive. Horses are typically fasted for 12 hours prior to the exam and water is withheld for 4 hours.

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

    Diagnostic and Treatment of Gastric Ulcers in Horses

    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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    What Are The Different Types Of Stomach Ulcers

    Your horses stomach is divided into two distinct regions: the non-glandular region, or squamous mucosa region, which covers approximately one-third of the equine stomach and the glandular region, which covers the remaining two-thirds of the stomach and contains glands that secrete hydrochloric acid, pepsin, bicarbonate, and mucus to aid in digestion.

    Horses’s stomach

    Equine stomach ulcers can develop in both regions of the stomach, but the disease process, risk factors, and treatment response for glandular ulcers is different from those for squamous ulcers. The only way to determine the location of a stomach ulcer is by stomach scoping. To confirm diagnosis, it is therefore critical to perform gastroscopy to identify the location of the stomach ulcer and treat it accordingly.

    If You Suspect Ulcers In Your Horse

    There are primarily three options for diagnosing gastric stomach ulcers in horses, gastric endoscopy, gastroscopy, and noninvasive diagnosis through observing the horses behavior and the response to therapy.

    Clearly, the first two options must be performed by a professional, a DVM . The third option, you may be able to diagnose and employ the proper therapy right away if you are astute and can read the signs of your horses distress well.

    I am in no way advocating for the average equine owner to forego professional treatment of their horses when their horse needs medical attention. But, throughout the years, I have observed many equine professionals who, through experience, became capable of diagnosing and treating equine gastric ulcers.

    The safest plan of action is to let your vet know that you suspect an equine gastric ulcer so they can quickly treat it.

    Now let us take a closer look at how a vet will diagnose an ulcer.Diagnosing Horse Ulcers

    Read Also: What Does An Ulcer Look Like

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