Gastric ulcers are incredibly common amongst horses today, due largely to the way in which they are managed and kept. Between 60 and 90% of horses will suffer gastric ulcers at some point – the numbers vary so greatly because the prevalence of ulcers varies between disciplines. No matter how you look at it, that’s a staggering statistic!
The prevalence of gastric ulcers and other gut disturbances is why we at EquiNutritive, provide products that always have gut health incorporated into them. Gut health is at the core of horse health and if the gut is well cared for then other niggling issues tend to dissipate.
We’d like to share with you some symptoms of gastric ulcers to watch out for, a few top tips for avoiding gastric ulcers and some ideas for rebalancing gut health if your horse has suffered from the condition.
Signs of gastric ulcers can be very subtle and hard to spot and the condition also shares symptoms with a number of other ailments. The best thing to do is know your horses ‘normal’ and then keep a look out for any changes that might suggest a developing problem, such as:
- Change in temperament (particularly when being ridden)
- Reduced performance
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
- Back pain
- Grinding teeth
- Crib biting
Reducing The Risk:
Horses have evolved to graze and consume forage for 18 hours a day. Modern day horse keeping practices don’t normally allow for that and so in order to offset that, some management strategies should be implemented to allow the gut to function as normally as possible. To reduce the risk of gastric ulcers, consider the following:
- Ensure you horse has access to ad lib forage – they should consume 1.5 – 2% of their bodyweight in roughage a day as a minimum.
- Ensure that prior to doing exercise or travelling, the horse is provided a small amount of roughage to fill the lower half of the stomach and prevent acid splash into the sensitive, unprotected area of stomach above.
- Divide the daily feed up into a number of smaller feeds
- Allow access to grazing whenever possible, for as long as possible.
- Minimise grain intake – during fermentation, grain is broken down into volatile fatty acids, which increase the overall acidity of the gut and may contribute to worsening the problem.
Getting the Balance Back:
When a horse has been unwell, such as with colic or gastric ulcers, the gastrointestinal system usually falls out of a healthy balance. The microbial populations have been disrupted, and the stomach may be tender from the presence of ulcers. If you suspect that your horse has ulcers, it is necessary to confirm the suspicion with a visit from you vet, who will scope the horse to assess the problem. If your horse does have ulcers it is likely that it will be put onto Gastrogard to resolve the issue. To help soothe the pain of gastric ulcers both during and after veterinary treatment and to rebalance the gut, you can try the following:
- Add a probiotic to the diet to help rebalance the microbial population. There are many products on the market that contain probiotics and others being sold specifically as probiotics. Alternatively, many horse owners will feed yoghurt to achieve the same effect. As a note, it is not recommended that yoghurt be fed for more than a few days as it contains lactose enzymes that horses are unable to break down efficiently.
- Add a supplement that has high mucilage content. This will help to coat the stomach in a gel like substance, both protecting it from acid and soothing any pain and discomfort. Chia seeds are a great natural product with high mucilage content.
- Provide access to herbs that support gut health and balance such as marshmallow root or limetree flowers. *There are many more great herbs for gut health – you can read more about herbs for gut health on the product pages of our website.
- Begin to implement preventative strategies immediately to avoid a recurrence of the problem.
Has your horse had gastric ulcers? Do you take steps to prevent them? Share you stories and strategies with us in the comments below.