What are gastric (stomach) ulcers?

This is an Ulcer in the stomach of a horse

A stomach ulcer is an area where the gastric membrane (comprised of mucus producing cells) has been eroded away and the acid has attacked the muscular wall beneath.

This results in pain and inflammation, and can cause bleeding into the stomach. Ulcers are debilitating and can be potentially life threatening.

The Facts About Equine Digestive Issues

Approximately 91% of racehorses get stomach ulcers, regardless of age
Approximately 52% of other performance horses have ulcers
Approximately 57% of foals have stomach ulcers, particularly during the first several months of life
Approximately 50% of horses with ulcers show no outward signs of gastrointestinal disease

What are the causes of ulceration in horses?

Acid released in the stomach in the absence of feed is thought to be the main factor in the disease. Horses evolved as grazing animals, constantly eating high roughage diets. However, a majority of the time this just isn’t possible as our horses are often stabled or confined and fed 2 hard feeds a day with low levels of roughage. Thier stomach is often empty for many hours of the day and stomach acid is continuously secreted, which can irritate and ulcerate the stomach lining. A horse's stomach secretes acid continually so that in it's natural habitat it can digest the food it is constantly grazing on - to do this it needs to be constantly chewing and producing saliva. With no eating there is no chewing, so there is less saliva to neutralise stomach acids. As the acid splashes across the upper side of the stomach it eats away the lining to form, sometimes within days, deep bleeding ulcers.

Horses love the taste of UlcerAid

The horse's stomach is similar to ours except there are two regions. One region is coated with a thicker type of lining than the other, which is largely lined with glandular cells. This glandular portion is most similar to our own stomach. The stomach lining produces both acid and mucus. The mucus protects the lining cells from being damaged by the acid which is necessary to help digest food. Horses produce small amounts of acid all of the time compared to other species which produce acid primarily when they eat. This makes sense when we consider that horses are "designed" to eat most of time since they are grazing animals. Similarly, foals nurse small amounts throughout the day. High grain / low roughage diets promote acid secretion
Stress increases the amount of acid being produced in the stomach. In addition, certain commonly used anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as phenylbutazone ("bute"), Flunixin, Banamine or Ketofen Dipyrone & aspirin may decrease the amount of mucus produced in the stomach. Stress and NSAIDs, alone or in combination, set up a situation where stomach ulcers may develop. In adult horses, diets rich in grain compared to hay have also been implicated.

Severe Ulcers can develop in as little as 5 days. Nervy horses seem to have a higher risk of stomach ulcers, due to the stress of training together with high energy feeds.
In a modern racing stable conditions allow equine stomach ulcers to flourish, these may include stress caused by isolation, unpredictable situations and exposure to chemical substances such as Bute, which weaken the stomach lining and can cause bleeding. These conditions are almost entirely due to our interference with the natural rhythms and routines of the animals and to our overuse of chemical substances.

Signs and Symptoms of Equine Ulcers

  • Nervousness / Irritation
  • Poor appetite & performance
  • Diarrhea or loose stools
  • Poor looking or dry coat
  • A change in eating behavior
  • Grinding teeth and/or excessive chewing of objects or tongue
  • Increase in girth size
  • Mild to moderate colic
  • Biting soil
  • Washing or dunking food in water
  • Failure to gain or maintain weight
  • Ill-thrift in foals
  • Digestive upset
  • May eat hay and pasture, but not grain and concentrate, or will only eat the latter very slowly
  • Lowered red blood cell count due to bleeding ulcers
  • Blood in the manure - increased risk if the horse has a history of being on NSAIDs (bute etc) due to a musculoskeletal problem

UlcerAid: The Chemical Free Natural Product

Low cost prevention and treatment of equine ulcers

UlcerAid will assist in the normal healthy recovery of the damaged stomach lining. It assists in relaxing the stomach and improving the normal rhythmic action necessary both for digestion and optimal fluid secretion.

Tips on Managing Ulcers

Healthy, happy horses
  • Horses with ulcers often do better when trained from a paddock or have access to grazing for the majority of the day.
  • Cut back work until appetite improves, then re-introduce harder work gradually.
  • Do not work horses on an empty stomach – ensure that hay is available overnight.
  • Avoid depriving horses of feed for more than a few hours as ulcers can develop very quickly when feed is withheld.
  • Long truck or float trips are often associated with food deprivation so keep this in mind when transporting long distances.
  • Horses with bleeding stomach ulcers should be provided with additional iron and blood-building minerals
    e.g. Ironcyclen Liquid, FBC-Bloodfood granules