By Edited Press Release
Dec 22, 2014
The stress horses endure when training, competing, and traveling can take a toll on their health. One of the most common health problems for horses in strenuous performance or show activities is the presence of gastric ulcers. Studies have shown that up to 90% of performance horses and 60% of show horses have gastric ulcers.
Ulcers develop when stomach acid damages an unprotected portion of the stomach lining and dissolves the tissue, causing pain, irritation, and blood loss.
“(Stressors) cause an increase in the amount of acid secreted by the stomach, and intensify the splashing effect of gastric contents on the upper, unprotected portion of the horse’s stomach lining, which is called the nonglandular region,” explained Southern States equine nutritionist Marty Adams, PhD. “The splashing effect of gastric contents onto the upper stomach region occurs whenever the horse moves from a walk to a faster gait (trot, pace, canter or gallop).”
Risk factors for gastric ulcers in horses include:
Transportation (especially to new locations);
A high-grain/low-fiber diet;
Intermittent feeding (not feeding on a regular schedule and not feeding at least twice daily);
Stress, illness, lameness, or pain of any kind;
Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as phenylbutazone or banamine; and
Management changes (movement to new stall, barn, change in training schedule or training intensity, etc.).
Gastric ulcers can be life-threatening, so it’s important to monitor your horse or foal regularly for signs of a problem, including weight loss and/or poor appetite. Other clinical signs include:
Mild, chronic colic;
Lying down more than normal;
Not finishing hay or grain;
Decreased stride length;
Behavioral or attitude changes;
Chronic diarrhea; and
Poor hair coat.
Currently, there is only FDA-approved drug for gastric ulcer treatment, available in two products. Work with your veterinarian to treat ulcers should they develop, and consult him or her regarding ways to reduce ulcer risk in the future.