In layman’s terms
by Karen Chaton
There is one thing about the topic of equine gastric ulcers that I am clear on – the more I learn about it, the more I realize we don’t know. Most of the studies that have been done have been to show the effectiveness of omeprazole, an effective drug for curing and preventing ulcers. For a horse with severe ulcers, omeprazole does work extremely well and should be used as a treatment. However, there are downsides; daily treatment with omeprazole is not only costly, but there are a lot of other questions that arise with its use, such as whether or not a horse receiving omeprazole daily is in violation of the AERC Drug Policy if you stop giving it within 24 hours of a ride.
Omeprazole works by stopping stomach acid – an important function of the stomach that aids in destroying bacteria that could cause intestinal tract infections such as salmonella. The altered pH of the stomach may not kill viruses and fungi. Stomach acid is necessary to digest protein. The undigested protein moves thru the cecum and large bowel, where fermentation can cause bloating, discomfort and foul smelling manure. Prolonged acid suppression in humans causes vitamin B12 mal-absorption. Further human studies have shown an increase in acid production following treatment. Omeprazole has been shown to significantly delay gastric emptying in humans, and there are several other potentially serious side effects that have been documented in humans, rats, and dogs (1). Long-term use in rats has shown thickening of the stomach lining which may or may not predispose for gastric cancer.