Ulcers Happen. Strike Back.
The complex nature of the horse’s digestive tract can predispose them to many problems, such as:
- Colic commonly caused by gas, impactions with feed or sand, and abnormal motility
- Equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS), more commonly referred to as gastric ulcers
- Infectious diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other organisms
- Non-infectious diseases caused by overeating, poor-quality food, toxins, obstruction, inflammation and neoplasia
What is Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS)?
EGUS encompasses a variety of lesions within the stomach that occur when acid has damaged the stomach lining. The horse has what is known as a complex stomach, meaning it has two different linings. The squamous mucosa (1) is the area above the margo plicatus. The glandular mucosa (2) includes the area below the margo plicatus extending through the antrum to the pylorus.
Lesions of the squamous mucosa are recognized as equine squamous gastric disease (ESGD), while lesions of the glandular mucosa are referred to as equine glandular gastric disease (EGGD). Although lesions can occur in either location, they behave differently in terms of risk factors and response to treatment. Veterinarians must perform a gastroscopy exam to accurately and definitively diagnose EGUS.
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.
What causes EGUS?
Any horse at any age can develop EGUS. The two leading risk factors are how and what we feed them (e.g. episodic feeding, withdrawal of feed before exercise and high concentrate/low forage diets), and stress (e.g. injury, transport, stall confinement).
Feeding: Lack of forage in a horse’s diet is a contributing factor of EGUS. Continual intake of forage helps horses naturally produce saliva, a buffer to stomach acid. Today’s 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 leads to the following:
- Reduced amount of chewing
- Reduced saliva production
- Less physical buffering of acid by forage in the stomach
- More acid production
- 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, change in herd dynamics and stall confinement, can cause stress in horses. It’s important to identify and anticipate moments of stress so they can be managed properly.
What are the clinical signs of EGUS?
Unfortunately, EGUS is not top-of-mind for many horse owners until their horse is already showing signs. Help your clients get ahead of EGUS by educating them on the clinical signs, which include:
- Poor performance
- Changes in behavior
- Recurrent, low-grade colic (especially after eating)
- Inappetence, weight-loss and/or poor body condition
For treating horses with ulcers, 95% of vets recommend GASTROGARD, the only proven and FDA-approved treatment with a long history of success.
It’s important to stay in front of stress so it doesn’t lead to gastric ulcers. Before stress strikes – prevent with ULCERGARD. It’s the only medication proven to be safe and effective and approved by the FDA to prevent equine gastric ulcers.
A gastroscopy exam is the only method to accurately and definitively diagnose EGUS. To aid veterinarians in performing this procedure, Boehringer Ingelheim developed a series of informational videos. Visit our YouTube channel to brush up on your understanding of how to perform a complete gastroscopic exam.
Comprehensive Gastric Health Care
In addition to strategies for treatment and prevention, maintaining gastric health requires year-round management.
Recommend these management tips to your clients to help them achieve optimum gastric health:
- Provide hay free-choice, utilizing slow-feed hay net or feeder, where possible
- If concentrate is necessary, provide in small, frequent meals and minimize starch
- Consider adding alfalfa to their diet to help buffer acid
- Feed hay before concentrate
- Minimize stress as much as possible (stick to routines, provide turnout if appropriate, pay attention to social structure)
- Address underlying sources of lameness or pain
Discover Relax Trax
RelaxTrax is a music soundtrack designed specifically to reduce stress in horses. It can be a beneficial tool for any horse that is experiencing stress, especially those who may be on stall rest or rehabbing from an injury. Tune in and learn more about the science behind the music.
GASTROGARD IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: The safety of GASTROGARD paste has not been determined in pregnant or lactating mares. For use in horses and foals 4 weeks of age and older. Keep this and all drugs out of the reach of children. In case of ingestion, contact a physician. Caution: Federal (USA) law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.
ULCERGARD IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: ULCERGARD can be used in horses that weigh at least 600 lbs. Safety in pregnant mares has not been determined. Not for use in humans. Keep this and all medications out of the reach of children. In case of ingestion, contact a physician.
1. Sykes BW, Hewetson M, Hepburn RJ, et al. European College of Equine Internal Medicine Consensus Statement—Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome in Adult Horses. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jvim.13578/full.
ULCERGARD® and GASTROGARD® are registered trademarks of Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc. ©2023 Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., Duluth, GA. All Rights Reserved. US-EQU-0118-2021-V2