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What Are Ulcers In Horses

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How To Treat The 4 Types Of Horse Ulcers

Gastric Ulcers in Horses

Once youve ascertained whether your horse suffers from gastric or hindgut ulcers youll be able to devise a treatment plan.

Omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor and its most common medication for stomach or gastric ulcers.

Omeprazole blocks the acid secretion from the stomach, reducing the amount of acid and returning the stomachs pH balance to horse standard. This decrease in stomach acid stops the formation of ulcers.

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.

Why Do Horses Get Ulcers And What Can We Do To Treat Them\ By Dr Kate \

There are several environmental factors and medications that can increase the chance of a horse getting ulcers. Any kind of stress in the horse results in a release of corticosteroids which can cause decreased blood flow to the cells that line the stomach wall, this in turn decreases the cells capacity to prevent the effects of being overexposed to stomach acid. There are a number of situations or events that can be stressful to horses and lead to ulcer formation such as a change in environment or intense training. Intense exercise can delay gastric emptying, so the food stays in the stomach for longer, allowing accumulation of more stomach acid and digestive factors. In one study 81% of racehorses in California had gastric ulcers compared to only 36% of horses not in any training. Also any horse that has another concurrent illness can be predisposed to ulcers due stress on the horses body or inconsistent eating. The same study showed that incidence of ulcers increased to 88% when the horse had another unrelated clinical problem. Some feeds may also predispose or protect horses from ulcers. Some by- products of digested feed, especially grain, may act synergistically with the digestive acids of the stomach to cause ulcers, while alfalfa, with its high protein and calcium content, may have more of a protective effect.

Severe ulceration with active bleeding of the pyloric region of the stomach.

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Treating Gastric Ulcers In Horse: Is It Squamous Or Glandular

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.

What Are The Clinical Signs Of An Ulcer

3 Ways to Spot Ulcer Symptoms in Horses

The clinical signs of EGUS can be hard to identify. Many horses may show no signs or mild signs such as poor performance, a change in attitude or behaviour, weight loss or poor condition. Some horses may experience recurrent colic, especially associated with a specific activity such as feeding.

In many horses that dont show obvious signs, an improvement in behaviour or performance can be seen after treatment. Its important to realize that while many horses do not show signs of pain, gastric ulcers are associated with discomfort and warrant treatment.

The better you know your horse, the more likely you are to notice subtle changes that may indicate the formation of a gastric ulcer.

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My Horse Has Ulcers And Doesnt Seem To Want To Eat Much Hay He Really Doesnt Seem To Like Chops What Else Can I Use So He Spends More Time Eating

If you can turn out on good grazing then that would be a great starting point. In addition it would be good to get some alfalfa into his ration as it is a natural buffer to acidity. There are some pelleted versions of alfalfa that you can use: pure Alfalfa Pellets can be fed dry or dampened with water if he prefers them that way or Alfa-Beet which is a combination of unmolassed sugar beet and alfalfa which must be fed soaked before feeding. Although a horse would tend to consume a pelleted/soaked version of alfalfa more quickly than chopped fibre and therefore spend less time chewing, the main aim in this situation is to increase fibre intake and find a form of fibre your horse likes. Once the ulcers have healed you may find your horses appetite picks up a bit and you can try introducing some chopped fibre again.

Can You Identify The Foxtail


If you find an ulcer on one side of the horse’s mouth, you’re likely to find them on the other side, too.

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.

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Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome: Potential Causes Treatments Performance Implications And Preventive Measures

At first glance, equine ulcers seem well understood with an established diagnostic process and tried treatment modalities. Beneath the surface, however, it quickly becomes clear that ulcers remain a bit of an enigma, with near endless causes, high recurrence rates and an approach that requires a multifaceted and individualized plan to accomplish a successful outcome.

Ulcers touch an overwhelming percentage of the horse population, making them one of the more prolific struggles faced by both riders and equine veterinarians. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners , up to 90 percent of racehorses and 60 percent of performance horses are afflicted with gastric ulcers, with non-performance horses and foals impacted as well. The progress happening in the understanding, treatment and perhaps, more importantly the prevention of equine gastric ulcers is incredible. Veterinary medicine is witnessing significant leaps in areas including the impact of NSAIDS, the critical role of diet, the influence of advanced nutrition and the tie between equine gastric ulcers and the horses gut microbiome.

Preventing Gastric Ulcers In Your Horse

Main Cause for Stomach Ulcers in horses

Nearly ninety percent of all horses will develop ulcers in their lifetime. That should sound an alarm for all horse lovers of the importance of awareness. It is critical to take the time to observe and analyze your horses feeding habits and overall body condition daily. This is key to helping your horse avoid the pain and discomfort of developing ulcers.

Probably one of the first steps to preventing ulcers is to form the habit of feeding a small portion of roughage to your horse at least thirty minutes before riding. Alfalfa has proven highly beneficial when used as a small pre-ride portion. This roughage consists of absorbent stems and leaves, making alfalfa superior to grass hay for absorbing stomach acids. This is not a recommendation of a straight alfalfa diet. But alfalfa used in this capacity can settle stomach acids and avoid their splashing and causing irritation to the upper stomach lining. It is a valuable step in the prevention of gastric ulcers. Here is the rundown on preventative measures to help your horse avoid developing gastric ulcers.

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What Is Gastritis In Horses

Gastritis is the general term used to describe inflammation and/or irritation of the stomach lining. Gastritis is simply a condition caused by an underlying disease. Based on Skippys recent weight loss, lackluster coat and behavior changes coupled with his new schedule and feeding habits it seems likely hes suffering from gastritis .

Most horse people would simply say that Skippy has a gastric ulcer , a blanket term commonly used to describe lesions in the gastric mucosa . Thats somewhat accurate, as gastritis may be associated with ulcers, a prevalent problem in the performance horse. But what most horse people dont know is that there are two different kinds of gastric ulcers and you need treat them differently. Ulcers may affect either the upper squamous region or the lower glandular region of the equine stomach. The regions function very differently, so its critical to distinguish between squamous ulceration and glandular ulceration.

Common Causes Of Gastric Ulcers In Horses

Have you noticed changes in your horse such as weight loss, a dull coat, disinterest in feeding or crib chewing that have resulted in poor performance? Your horse might be experiencing stomach pain, most likely due to gastric ulcers.

Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome occurs when sores develop on the lining of the horses stomach. The physiochemical barrier that usually protects stomach tissue is worn down and digestive acids cause painful lesions in the stomachs lining.

In addition to causing discomfort in your horse, gastric ulcers can present with hindgut ulcers which can impair nutrient absorption leading to a wide range of health and behavioural problems.

This condition is known to affect 60-90% of performance horses particularly when travel, high-intensity exercise and long periods without feeding occur. It also occurs at high rates in pleasure horses and young foals.

Research shows that any horse that undergoes stall confinement, has inconsistent access to feed, is fed grain or concentrates, or is trailered is at risk of developing ulcers.

This article will guide you through the different types of gastric ulcers, their causes, symptoms and how to treat and prevent ulcers in horses.

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What Should I Not Feed A Horse With Ulcers

Try to avoid the use of cereal based concentrates as these increase the risk of ulcers in horses. Use more digestible fibre sources like alfalfa with added oil to meet energy requirements. For example Healthy Tummy provides 11.5MJ/kg of slow-release energy which is the equivalent to a medium energy mix.

Superficial And Deep Corneal Ulcers

Top 5 Best Horse Ulcer Supplements Reviews (2020)

Corneal ulcers are one of the most common eye diseases in dogs. They are caused by trauma, detergent burns, and infections. Other eye conditions can cause corneal ulcers, such as entropion, distichiae, corneal dystrophy, and keratoconjunctivitis sicca . There have been at least two cases where corneal ulceration was caused by canine herpesvirus.

Superficial ulcers involve a loss of part of the epithelium. Deep ulcers extend into or through the stroma and can result in severe scarring and corneal perforation. Descemetoceles occur when the ulcer extends through the stroma, exposing Descemet’s membrane. This type of ulcer is especially dangerous and can result in perforation.

The location of the ulcer depends somewhat on the cause. Central ulcers are typically caused by trauma, dry eye, or exposure from facial nerve paralysis or exophthalmos. Ulcers in the inferior nasal cornea may be caused by foreign material trapped under the third eyelid. Entropion or distichiae may cause ulceration of the peripheral cornea. Immune-mediated eye disease can cause ulcers at the border of the cornea and sclera.

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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.

Best Ulcer Treatment For Horses

Stomach ulcers are a common problem that many horses and ponies suffer from. If you own or care for an equine animal, it is important that you understand how to recognize and manage this painful condition. But what is the best ulcer treatment for horses?

With the correct care and attention, stomach ulcers in horses can be cured or the symptoms eased. Lets learn all about this health disorder of horses and find out what ulcer treatments are available.

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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.

The Critical Influence Of Diet

Ask the Vet – Detection and treatment for ulcers in horses

While grains and concentrates can have a detrimental effect in some cases, forage choices and grazing behavior can both positively and negatively impact a horses propensity for ulcers as well. Pasture turnout is considered to reduce the risk of EGUS as does free access to fibrous feed or frequent forage feeding, notes Dr. Belgrave. While a high-quality, forage- based diet is essential, the type of hay fed can also factor into a horses risk of developing ulcers. There is an increased likelihood of ESGD when straw is the only forage provided, though feeding alfalfa hay has been shown to have a protective effect of the gastric squamous mucosa in adult horses. Dr. Belgrave is a strong advocate for pasture access, and for those times when horses are stalled, he recommends continual and gradual access to good-quality hay while keeping grains and concentrates to a minimum and only feeding them when a sufficient amount of hay is in the stomach to buffer the gastric acid released upon their consumption.

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What Do You Feed A Horse With A Hindgut Ulcer

Russillo suggests feeding a low-starch/low-sugar diet as in excess, it causes more acid in the horses digestive system. Opposite from colonic ulcers, stomach ulcers, in order to heal, require that the horse be eating and digesting at all times. This means having free-choice access to pasture and hay.

Turn Your Horse Out To Pasture More Frequently

In addition to this important step in treatment, there are several more actionable steps we can take to hasten your horses healing. If at all possible, turn your horse out more frequently. Remember, the horses stomach is small and produces acid continually. Consuming small meals more frequently helps to regulate this. 4. Stop or Drastically Reduce the Use of NSAIDs

If you extensively use NSAIDS on your horse, your vet will direct you to reduce their use or eliminate them drastically. That is because NSAIDs are well known to irritate the stomach lining.

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