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Ulcers are a huge problem in horses. After reading a new article, new evidence has surfaced regarding different types of ulcers in horses. There are many great ways to treat ulcers. Still, we must look for ways to help prevent them because treating ulcers can become very expensive, time-consuming and painful for the horse.
The good news is that there are many things we can do to help our horses have better gut health that will help them be less affected by ulcers. Using preventative measures is important because when our horses have ulcers, they’re in pain. That pain can come out as behavioral issues such as swishing the tail, reluctance to go forward, pinning of the ear, not wanting to be ridden, or lack of performance.
Many people talk about ulcers and the differences between regular versus hindgut ulcers. The two main types stated in this article, they are squamous gastric disease or glandular gastric disease. We don’t know much about the glandular type, but we have more information about the squamous type.
The Squamish type is most related to diet and exercises; when we feed, what we feed, and how we exercise our horses play a huge part in this type of ulcer. It’s interesting to note that the intensity of the exercise doesn’t affect the likely hood of your horse getting the ulcer, but the length of exercise does. When a horse starts trotting, the pH of the proximal stomach drops to less than four. So, it matters less the intensity of the workout than the length of the workout.
We also know that if you’re feeding more soluble carbs, it will double the likelihood of the horse getting ulcers. Feeding low-carb feeds is a great place to start. Horses have a hard time breaking this type of feed down and using it properly. And if your horse requires more calories, you can look at adding different fats and oils, such as flaxseed oil, rice bran oil, camelina oil, and my favorite Omega Alpha EquiBody Glo.
We also know that water deprivation leads to three times increase that the horse could develop these ulcers. Another thing to think about is when and how often you are feeding your horse. Interestingly at night, your horse is not going to eat as much because they’re going to sleep during that time, their stomach acid is going to drop below four, which means they are more at risk for developing ulcers. So, if you exercise your horse first thing in the morning when they have an empty stomach, they will be at an even higher risk. You want to make sure that your horse has a full belly of food before exercise.
When you treat squamous ulcers, because of the injury to the squamous mucosa, you want to treat them by suppressing the acid. Many people use omeprazole, and these studies show that there is an 80% healing rate for those using oral omeprazole. It’s also important to note that the absorption is reduced in the presence of food, so it is better to give this to your horse on an empty stomach, which is contradictory to what we spoke of above. Another thing to make sure of is that your horse is constantly moving. If it is stalled for many hours, this can cause ulcers due to the lack of movement in the gut that helps digest their food.
To recap, think about the horse’s diet, make sure they’re on a low carb diet, and have free choice hay and water. If you need to add fat, consider an oil. Make sure they have something to eat before they exercise and keeping in mind that it’s not the intensity but the length of the exercise.
When it comes to glandular mucosa, this occurs in the lower half of the stomach, which is very different. We don’t know as much about this type but what we do know is that Warmblood horse breeds are at higher risk. We know that the frequency of exercise and stress makes a big difference. So, for example, one study showed that if showjumpers were exercising six to seven times a week. They were three and a half times more likely to develop these glandular ulcers than horses exercising, five or less. And that’s could have something to do with the stress levels. These studies suggest that stress is the biggest contributor to the development of ulcers. And unlike squamous gastric ulcers, oral omeprazole is ineffective at treating this type of ulcer because it does not reach the hindgut. However, injectable omeprazole can be given every five to seven days, which shows a 75% to 100% healing or improvement rate, reported in this study.
Now how do you know which type of ulcer your horse has? The only way to tell is to scope your horse to tell you what kind of treatment is needed. With both types reducing stress is key, be mindful about environmental changes, turnout length, pasture mates, and having a continuous supply of hay and water. Another important aspect is reducing the stress between you and your horse. Harmony Horsemanship is all about finding that calm connection with your horse that will help lower their stress.
Taking these precautions will help reduce the risk of ulcers and save you a lot of time, money and spare your horse the discomfort.
Thanks so much, bye for now.