Equine Gastric Ulcers

Equine gastric ulcers can affect any horse at any age.

These are the results of the erosion of the lining of the stomach due to a prolonged exposure to the normal acid in the stomach. Unlike ulcers in humans, bacteria do not appear to cause equine gastric ulcers. Horses are designed to be grazers with regular intake of roughage. Since the horse’s stomach continually secretes acid, gastric ulcers can result when the horse is not eating regularly due to there being less feed to neutralize the acid.

Healthy Stomach

Stomach with ulcers

Stress (both environmental and physical) can also increase the likelihood of ulcers. Even typical training and recreational showing have been shown to induce ulcers within a five to seven day period. Strenuous exercise can decrease both the emptying function of the stomach and blood flow to the stomach, thereby contributing to the problem.

Many foals being hospitalized for routine or critical care, or foals in any stressful environment, are commonly placed on medication to help prevent gastric ulceration.

Finally, chronic administration of any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as phenylbutazone, flunixin meglumine or ketoprofen, can decrease the production of the stomach’s protective mucus layer, making it more susceptible to the formation of ulcers in the glandular portion of the stomach.

The majority of horses with gastric ulcers do not show outward symptoms. They have more subtle symptoms, such as:-
1) A poor appetite,
2) And poor hair coat.
3) Reluctance to perform/work

Thoroughbred and standard-bred racehorses with poor performance have a higher incidence of squamous gastric ulcers.

More serious cases will show:-
1) Abdominal pain (colic) and/or
2) Bruxism (grinding the teeth).

The only way to definitively diagnose ulcers is through gastroscopy, which involves placing an endoscope into the stomach and looking at its surface.

With light sedation and possibly a twitch, the scope is passed through the nostril and down the oesophagus into the stomach. The light and camera on the end of the scope allow the vet to observe the stomach lining.

Treatment of ulcers is aimed at removing the predisposing factors and decreasing acid production. When possible, horses should be allowed free-choice access to grass or hay. Environmental factors also need to be addressed, which may include relationships with other horses or the horse’s job description. 

Horses that must be stalled should be arranged so they can see and socialize with other horses as well as having constant access to forage. Some horses appear to enjoy having a ball or other object in the stall to occupy their time.

If you think your equine may suffer from ulcers, please ask about booking your equine to visit us.

To rule out whether your equine maybe suffering from gastric ulcers we have this free survey available for you to complete.

Equine Gastric Ulcer Survey

Follow Us On Social Media

Scroll to Top

IMPORTANT NOTICE 1st September 2023

Dear Valued Client,
There have been some recent changes in legislation, which are designed to reduce the impact of drug resistance in certain categories of drugs. These have impacted the way we prescribe medicines to your pet.

Specifically, medicines used to treat parasites, including all prescription flea and worm treatments, can only be dispensed by our team if your pet has been examined by their registered veterinarian within 12 months. Although this has always been our policy the vet now has to annotate the clinical notes (rather than rely on automatic systems) with the exact flea and worming product and duration needed for the following year. Please bear with us as this logistical change may take a little more time than usual.

The other major change is that courses of antibiotics cannot be dispensed, extended or changed without your animal being physically examined. 

We are in the process of updating our recording systems to facilitate this process.

If you require prescription parasite treatment for your pet and they have not been examined by one of our vets within 12 months, you will be required to arrange an appointment.

We anticipate this will not affect the vast majority of pets, as they do receive their annual vaccinations or are otherwise regular visitors, for various reasons. They will therefore have received the necessary checks to be eligible for parasite treatment, without the need for a parasite consultation.

Thank you for your understanding.
Arberth Vets