Equine Gastric Ulcers
A surprisingly high percentage of horses suffer from gastric ulcers to one degree or another. Understanding the signs and symptoms is an important part of being a horse owner if you want your horse to be healthy and performing at its best.
Which horses are prone to gastric ulcers?
• 90% of Race Horses • 60% of Performance Horses • 50% of Foals • 30% of Leisure Horses *approximate percentages
What are equine gastric ulcers?
Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS), a term used to describe horses with gastric ulcers, refers to damage to the horse’s stomach lining from excessive stomach acid. This acid induced damage can cause great discomfort, not to mention reduced performance and condition problems. In some cases, usually in foals, ulceration can be severe enough to cause death.
What are some of the causes of equine stomach ulcers?
All the risk factors for equine gastric ulcers have yet to be determined, but some of the more commonly encountered ones are presented below. It is important to note, however, that horses can develop severe ulcers even in the absence of these characteristic risk factors. • Diet – As horses’ stomachs are designed for constant foraging, there is a continuous secretion of acid within the stomach. Prolonged periods without food to neutralize the acid can lead to ulceration. • Training & Exercise – There is a definite association between equine training and gastric ulcers. Even non intensive training is associated with a high prevalence of stomach ulcers. It has been shown that blood flow to the stomach (which helps to remove acid) decreases with exercise – while increased pressure in the abdomen during exercise pushes acid up into the sensitive portion of the stomach. • Physical Stress & Illness – Gastric ulcers can occur in response to physiological stress. Shock, respiratory disease and traumatic injury may play a role. Equine transportation and stable confinement are proven risk factors in causing ulcers. • Psychological stress – While psychological stress is difficult to evaluate in horses and foals, stressful conditions may adversely influence feed intake, resulting in periods of increased stomach acidity. • Medication – Some long term medications can produce adverse gastric effects, as they may inhibit production of the substances that help to protect the stomach.