Could You Be Missing the Signs of Equine Stomach Ulcers?


Behavior and performance changes may prompt further investigation.
Sometimes a training ride or a show doesn’t go well. You wonder, “Is my horse just having a bad day?” Equestrians are often quick to place blame on a variety of causes, from the weather and the environment to the horse’s athletic ability or even their own riding errors. One potential cause to consider – equine stomach ulcers.
Less-than-optimal performance, resistance to work and difficulty training are all common issues that may be associated with gastric ulcers1,2 which can develop in as few as five days.3 If you have noticed behaviors such as your horse pinning his ears while being groomed, or kicking out when the girth is tightened, equine stomach ulcers could be a possibility, and it may be time to contact your veterinarian.

“When horses are having behavioral issues or even decreased performance in the show ring, riders and trainers should consider stomach ulcers,” says Hoyt Cheramie, DVM, MS, DACVS, Senior Equine Professional Service Veterinarian, Boehringer Ingelheim. “An equine veterinarian will be able to diagnose ulcers via gastroscopy.”

Because ulcers can’t be seen with the naked eye, gastroscopy is the only way to definitively diagnose stomach ulcers.4 The exam provides the extra benefit of allowing your veterinarian to assess current stomach conditions and, if ulcers are present, grade them. Your veterinarian will examine several parts of the stomach in search of anything abnormal, such as ulcerations, erosions, reddening, thickening, abnormal coloring and sometimes parasites such as bot larvae. He or she will also note where the stomach ulcers are located – in the squamous area or the glandular area.

Squamous ulcers are the most common, and are found in the upper part of the stomach, as this part of the stomach has a thinner lining that isn’t protected from the stomach acid.5 If your veterinarian finds any squamous ulcers, he or she will grade them according to severity and take photos or videos to document them for comparison after treatment.

Photos available on request of examples of grades of ulcers your veterinarian may find during a gastroscopic exam.2
“Horse owners are sometimes very surprised at the exam findings,” Cheramie says. “This is why gastroscopy is so useful – to truly know what’s going on inside the horse’s stomach so the veterinarian can diagnose the ulcers and prescribe appropriate treatment.”

The stress of training, showing and traveling, along with the way horses are commonly fed and managed, can contribute to the development of ulcers. If your horse is diagnosed with ulcers, treatment with Gastrogard® (omeprazole) may be recommended. GASTROGARD is the only proven and FDA-approved ulcer treatment product. It contains specially formulated omeprazole that suppresses acid production to a level that allows the ulcers to heal.6

In addition to treatment with medication, Cheramie suggests the following as part of ulcer management:

  • Provide continuous access to roughage through grazing or hay-restrictive feeders or nets
  • Feed grain divided into multiple small meals daily
  • Work with your veterinarian to make other management adjustments as warranted

​In addition to the recommendations listed above, Cheramie suggests giving Ulcergard® (omeprazole), an FDA-approved and proven ulcer prevention medication, during times of stress.7 ULCERGARD, with its patented formulation, ensures the medication is protected and available for absorption and will help protect your horse’s stomach lining.

Having a horse develop a change in attitude or resistance to work can be challenging for any equestrian. If your horse exhibits signs that may be associated with ulcers, don’t let him suffer. Contact your veterinarian to diagnose, treat and prevent ulcers appropriately.

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