1 in 3 horses suffer from gastric ulcers

Could your horse have gastric ulcers?

Management

Research shows that stress (including high performance training and competition), feeding and husbandry practices may be associated with the development of gastric ulceration in horses2.

It is therefore recommended that treatment is combined with management changes2 to minimise the effect that stress factors, food and management regimes are having on your horse’s stomach lining. This will not only support the effective and timely resolution of your horse’s gastric ulcers but will also help to prevent further episodes of gastric ulceration.

Take these three simple steps to support your horse’s stomach lining:

1) REDUCE STRESS

Horses often experience gastric ulcers during periods of stress, for example, during high level competition, after changing yards or routine, or whilst suffering from other medical illnesses. There are many potential causes of stress so the best way to help your horse is to identify the sources of stress for them and then take action to minimise these as much as possible.

2) FEED MORE ROUGHAGE AND LESS HIGH GRAIN FEEDS

It has been shown that limiting high grain feeds can help to reduce stomach acidity and therefore reduce the development of gastric ulcers1. If you are unable to reduce the high grain feeds, giving chaff with them will help to minimise any increase in stomach acidity1. You can also consider adding a pectin-lecithin3 complex such as Equitop® Pronutrin which forms a gel to support the natural mucus defences of the stomach.

3) REDUCE FASTING TIMES

When the stomach is empty of food, the pH of the stomach acid will be lower (more acidic) and there will be less physical obstruction allowing stomach acid to splash onto the upper stomach lining. This increases the risk of ulcer development and slows down healing so ideally all horses with gastric ulcers should have free access to roughage and water at all times in order to ensure the stomach is never empty. This is not always practical so a more pragmatic approach is to ensure that your horse does not go for longer than 6 hours without access to forage.

An additional management change that can be beneficial is to feed your horse a small roughage feed thirty minutes before exercising: this again can help by preventing the stomach acid splashing onto the upper stomach lining2.