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  • June 16, 2022 3 min read

    Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) will most likely affect all horses at some point in their life. For me, each of my current horses has been affected, and most of my friend’s horses have all had ulcers at some point! So it is crucial that we, as horse owners, know the clinical signs of ulcers as well as ways in which we can reduce the occurrence and recurrence of EGUS. 

    What are ulcers, and what are the clinical signs?

    EGUS is the ulceration of the oesophageal, gastric or duodenal mucosa. If you have ever had a gastroscopy performed on your horse, you will have been able to visibly see these ulcers or sores, which can, in some cases, be bleeding. So, you can imagine that they can be pretty painful, which is why you will most often than not notice clinical signs in your horse.

    In a textbook case of ulcers, the horse will display a loss of appetite, and you may also notice some coat changes and weight loss. Other signs of ulcers may include poor performance, attitude changes, colic, girthiness, dullness and an increase in behaviours such as windsucking or cribbing. Whilst most horses will display some symptoms of ulcers, there have been horses that have been riddled with ulcers that have displayed no signs at all! So, it is vital that if you notice any changes in your horse, consult your vet to determine the cause.

    My horse has been diagnosed with ulcers; now what?

    If your horse has been diagnosed with ulcers, the vet will have given you a treatment plan, usually omeprazole, which inhibits acid production within the stomach, thereby allowing ulcers to heal. However, it is also essential to ensure your horse’s diet is adequate to support digestive health to reduce the recurrence of ulcers in the future.

    If you aren’t in a position to change your horse’s diet too much, then the one thing you should consider doing above all else is to ensure that your horse has enough roughage. The recommendation is currently 1.5% to 2% of the horse’s body weight per day in hay or grass. So, for a 500kg horse, that’s 7.5kg to 10kg of roughage per day! Feeding roughage allows the horse to chew, which produces saliva, which will help buffer stomach acid. Also, it is essential to ensure that your horse has access to hay or pasture at any time. If this cannot be made possible, then it is best to ensure that they are not left for extended periods (more than 5 hours) without access to feed. 

    If your horse can tolerate it, feeding lucerne has been shown to help buffer the horse’s stomach. It is a good idea to feed a small amount of lucerne before the horse is ridden, as this will help buffer the acid in the stomach. 

    Some studies have also shown that horses fed a diet high in grain and starch will have an increased risk of developing ulcers. It is therefore important that the amount of grain and starch in the diet is kept to a minimum or eliminated if you are happy to do so. If you are looking for a feed that is grain-free and low in starch, we have provided you with some recommendations below (and in no particular order!):

    • Hygain Balanced
    • Hygain Zero
    • Mitavite Munga (although this contains molasses which may not be suitable for some horses)
    • Mitavite Xtra-Cool
    • Mitavite Athlete Plus
    • Thompson and Redwood Lupin Fibre Cubes
    • Thompson and Redwood Claytons Pellets

    If your horse is primarily on a hay diet, and you feel that it needs a bit more energy or could use a little bit more weight, then you may also consider using oils, beet pulp or copra. 

    If you need any help in determining a feed that is suitable for your horse, please feel free to visit us in-store or online - we are here to help!

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