What Are The Symptoms Of Equine Gastric Ulcers
The symptoms of gastric ulcers vary depending on the severity and the individual horse. Most commonly owners report behavioral changes in their horse. Changes in behavior can be an increase in nervousness while tacking up or riding, a tendency toward a more aggressive behavior , and some horses stop eating and therefore lose weight. Other signs include, but are not limited to, poor athletic performance, dull coat, altered eating behavior, weight loss, diarrhea, and colic. In foals, teeth grinding and excessive salivation are common. Ulcers also occur in the first part of the small intestine and in the esophagus.
Equine Ulcers You Really Need To Know More
Ulcers in the digestive track are more than just the latest disease du jour. Thus far, for a problem that has been recognized for about 20 years, we are still seeing and understanding only the tip of a metaphorical iceberg. More than two thirds of the iceberg is still not visible and much is still being discovered about this ulcer iceberg. We do know that there are, basically, only two kinds of horses those who have ulcers and those who will have ulcers!
We should all recognize that gastric and intestinal ulcers are literally a slow or non-healing acid burn a burn such as if hydrochloric acid was splashed on your face. The horses ulcers are a combination of this hydrochloric acid, as well as volatile fatty acids and bile acids. In horses, the acid burns holes into the lining of the stomach, small or large bowel. The acids may burn a crater deeply enough to cause bleeding or even burn through and penetrate the gut. When the acid burn craters do heal they can create scar tissue and strictures, especially in the small intestine that may lead to colic.
Acupuncture Points For Horses With Ulcers And Gut Pain
From an equine therapists point of view, often after treatment, these points are still sore or the pain comes back. This can be due to gastric ulcers. Often the horse is sore on the right hind, may step short, or have an odd gait. Curves to the left and pushes out through the right rib cage.
The hindgut is on the right side. When there is pain due to gut pain and ulcers, the horse shows these symptoms and is very hard to straighten up with massage therapy. In the past Rachel scratched her head and wondered what was wrong, she did not understand why the horse did not get better with Equine Therapy alone.
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Sensitivity In The Girth Area
If your horse is fussy when the girth is tightened, dont assume hes just being difficult or doesnt want to be ridden. Girthiness is also a sign of ulcers in horses. Though some might think that the stomach is located in the girth area, it is actually the hindgut that extends up the length of the underside of the belly, all the way into the girth area.
In one study, 92% of horses with girthiness were found to have gastric ulcers.
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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Adjust Your Horses Eating & Exercise Schedule
Another important step is to adjust the time between meals. This aspect of treatment can pose a real challenge for a lot of equine enthusiasts. Many horse lovers work away from their horses, which makes feeding more frequently than twice a day difficult. Fortunately, today, there are a few feed accessories on the market that make it easier to provide frequent feedings to your horse. This is done by dramatically slowing down how quickly they can consume their feed.
How Are Stomach Ulcers Diagnosed
Clinical signs and response to treatment can offer circumstantial evidence that your horse has ulcers, but gastroscopy is the only way to confirm the diagnosis of stomach ulcers and to evaluate their severity. There is no correlation between the signs and the severity of ulcers. Some horses exhibit very few signs but have severe ulcerations, whereas others show many signs but have less severe ulcerations.
Stomach scoping involves passing an endoscope through the horses nose all the way to the stomach and the beginning of the small intestine to see the stomach lining. This requires the horse to be fasted, so that the stomach is empty, and lightly sedated to help pass the camera more easily.
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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.
Intermittent Access To Water
During training and competition there can be long periods of time without access to water, particularly during transport.
Intermittent access to water increases the chances of developing gastric ulcers in all parts of the stomach.
Turnout without constant access to water, or frozen water in the winter, might also increase the risk of ulcers.
Giving oral electrolyte solutions repeatedly to horses in competition has also been shown to increase the number of ulcers and the severity of the lesions.
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What Is The Best Prevention For Ulcers
Once diagnosed and treated for ulcers, horses are at risk for re-occurrences. The first step in prevention is a change in diet. Eliminate feed concentrates containing high amounts of carbohydrates and sugars which cause increased levels of acid production during digestion and promote ulcer formation. Carefully transition to high fat/high fiber feeds such as rice bran and alfalfa pellets. Review the label of your concentrates to ensure a low glycemic index mix. For example: molasses, corn, oats, wheat, molasses, mill run, etc. should not be fed to horses with digestive distress.
It is very important for the horse to be able to graze throughout the day rather than only eating two times per day. If stalled, having a low quality hay or pasture grass available at all times to prevent periods of fasting, keeps excess acid from building up. Try a small mesh hay net to slow eating and keep hay in front of your horse all day.
In addition to proper nutrition, an effective daily digestive support supplement, like Excel is recommended to counteract stress responses. It is important to to have feed a quality nutraceutical like this to help reduce inflammation, as well as naturally soothe the ulcerated digestive tract.
This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as Dr. DePaolo diagnosing your horses health. DePaolo Equine Concepts, Inc. recommends that you consult your regular veterinarian regarding specific health concerns.
What Is A Gastric Ulcer In Horses
Gastric ulcers in horses are legions in the stomach lining. Horses secrete gastric acid continually throughout the day. This is entirely healthy for horses that can forage small meals throughout the day.
Gastric ulcers develop when a horse is fed larger meals that are more spread apart, allowing the horses stomach to empty. When there is nothing for the stomach acid to breakdown, it erodes the stomach lining.
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Diagnosis Of Gastric Ulcers In Horses
For definitive diagnosis, endoscopic visualization of lesions
Neither clinical signs nor clinicopathologic laboratory tests are specific for diagnosis of gastric ulcers, and an abnormality in a laboratory test does not preclude the possibility that another disorder may be present. Gastric ulcers can develop secondary to stress because of problems in many organ systems, or as a result of environmental stress such as hospitalization or stall confinement. Gastroscopic visualization of the ulcers in an empty stomach is the only definitive method of diagnosis. The equine stomach consists of two regions: the squamous region is covered by nonglandular tissue and can have mild hyperkeratosis because of exposure to stomach acids, whereas the glandular stomach is generally pink and can look mottled.
Empirical treatment is indicated when endoscopy is unavailable. A presumptive diagnosis can be reasonably made when clinical signs are reduced or resolve after several days of treatment with a medication known to be effective at raising gastric pH and facilitating healing of gastric mucosa.
What Can You Observe When You Look At A Horse With Ulcer Problems
1. Weight Loss: That, of course, depends on the severity and duration of the ulcers. However, even in somewhat less severe cases horses are moderately down in weight. Recent history often indicates that it is hard to keep weight on them. Hand in hand the horse may show some loss of muscle mass and top line.
2. Eating Patterns: In observing the ulcer horses eating patterns, you may notice that it has become a slow or picky eater. Some will literally walk away from their hay and/or grain. It is common that they may nibble hay, but refuse grain.
3. Appearance: It is also commonly observed that the hair coat, especially, over the thorax is duller than on the neck or hindquarters.
4. Resistance to Grooming: Many horses with ulcers do not like to be brushed on the bottom of the chest and abdomen. They may even kick out if touched in the area of the sheath or mammary glands.
5. It is very important to note that some horses may be in good flesh, have good appetites and still have ulcers in their digestive tracts and have musculo/skeletal issues and performance related problems that are consistent with the ulcers.
6. Horses with chronic ulcers may show poor quality feet
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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:
Q: What Harm Do Stomach Ulcers Cause My Horse
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.
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The Wither Pocket Muscles:
The other area readily evaluated with the needle cap is the wither-pocket. This is the pocket where the pommel points and panels/bars of the saddle rest behind the shoulder blade. Begin the stroking from the top of the pocket just behind the scapula . Commence the exam with the fingertips and exert a light pressure then gradually stroke with more pressure. Continue stroking somewhat rearward to the bottom of the wither pocket. The exam can be better executed using the flat side of the needle cap .
A horse that does not have ulcers should be able to tolerate the degree of pressure that you can readily tolerate when stroking the side of the needle cap against the open palm of your hand. The reaction in an ulcer case may be present on both the left and right wither pockets. Remember, even though the pocket is almost always reactive in ulcer cases this procedure as an only test is not adequate to say that the horse has ulcers, since it may also indicate poor saddle fit. It has more significance when viewed along with e.g. ulcer point sensitivity
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 Ulcers In Horses
Treatment of gastric ulcers in horses may vary depending on the severity of the ulcer. Treatment methods may include:
Specific acid inhibitors may be prescribed to your horse to treat his ulcer. Called Proton pump inhibitors, these prescription medications may be given by your veterinarian to decrease the amount of acid that the stomach is producing.
H2 Blockers are medications that may be chosen by your veterinarian to prescribe to your horse to block any histamine in your horse. Histamine encourages the stomach to produce more acid. Common histamine blockers are ranitidine and cimetidine.
Antacids are effective at blocking or buffering any stomach acid from affecting your horse. Antacids, though, are only effective for a limited amount of time. Your horses stomach is always producing acid, so large amounts are needed of this type of medication. If your horse is a performance horse, antacids may be beneficial to give sporadically, such as on the day of a performance.
Changes in Lifestyle
Effective treatments for ulcers also include making changes to your horses lifestyle. This may include increasing feeding times throughout the day, putting your horse to pasture, lessening his intake of grain, adding supplements, increasing roughage in his diet, and administering probiotics to help his digestion.
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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 cows 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.
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Stomach Ulcers In Horses
, DVM, MS, DACVIM-LA, Equine Health Studies Program, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University
A gastric ulcer is a sore in the stomach lining that occurs when the lining has been damaged by stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Ulcers can also be seen in the lower esophagus and in the entrance of the duodenum . The condition, also known as equine gastric ulcer syndrome, is associated with performance horses, changes in housing or interactions with other horses, stress, and illnesses. Mild stomach ulcers are seen commonly in newborn foals. In most cases, these ulcers cause no signs and heal without treatment. Ulcers can be found in approximately 30% of adult horses, but the percentage is much higher in race horses. They are least common among horses turned out onto pasture and most common among Thoroughbred race horses at racetracks. Ulcers are found in more than 60% of show horses, event horses, western performance horses, and endurance horses. The prevalence and severity of ulcers increase as the intensity of exertion increases. Stomach ulcers develop in as little as 5 days.
Neither signs nor laboratory tests are specific for stomach ulcers. Endoscopy is the only reliable method of diagnosis for this disorder.
Can You Identify The Foxtail
Horses are very resilient, especially with oral problems. Dont be surprised if you check the next day and the sores are halfway healed or more! If you find they are not healing by weeks 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 horses lips. It also includes still shots of the ulcers at the end of the video.
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