Ulceration of the stomach is a common health problem and it occurs when acid damages the lining of the stomach causing ulcers to develop. Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) has been subdivided into two clinical conditions based on differences in where and how they occur and how they are treated; Equine Squamous Gastric Disease, and Equine Glandular Gastric Disease.
The two leading risk factors for ulcers in horses are the way we feed them (e.g. episodic feeding, withdrawal before exercise and limited or no turnout) and stress (e.g. injury, transport, stall confinement).
Feeding: Lack of forage in a horse’s diet is a contributing factor of EGUS. Through a continual intake of forage, the horse naturally produces saliva which acts as a buffer to stomach acid. In today’s environment, horses are often subjected to a concentrate-rich diet and longer periods between feedings. More concentrate (especially high starch concentrates) along with less access to grazing means reduced amount of chewing, reduced saliva production, less physical buffering of acid by forage itself in the stomach, more acid production, and higher likelihood of gastric ulcer syndrome.
Stress: Some horses are more prone to stress than others, but for many even the smallest changes in routine can cause stress. Physical and behavioral changes such as injury, transportation and stall confinement can cause stress in horses. It’s important to identify and anticipate moments of stress so that you can manage them properly.
The economic impact of this disease is difficult to calculate because the impact on athletic performance has not been accurately determined. However, there are well-defined costs attributable to diagnosis, medication and the labor required for treatment.