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Tips for Managing Gastric Ulcers in Horses

Management changes are imperative for successful treatment & prevention of gastric ulcers.

Treating
Omprazole products are most effective on relatively empty stomachs. Best given first thing in the morning as horses tend to sleep between 10pm-sunrise therefore are naturally semi fasted. Give omeprazole then ideally wait 30-60mins before feeding hay or hard feed.

Feeding
ALWAYS feed 2kg or 3L of hay or chaff (not grain) before exercise or traveling. This creates a fibre ball/mat to absorb & prevent acid splash on squamous (upper, unprotected) part of equine stomach.

Causes/Triggers
Shows, outing, change in environment or any herd changes that create stress (even if not outwardly displayed) are the perfect trigger for ulcers in ANY horse. Misconceptions that only TBs tend to get ulcers are FALSE!

Clinical Signs

  • Change in Behaviour
  • Change in Appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Dull Coat
  • Girthiness or Mild Colicky Signs
  • Chewing Wood, Windsucking
  • Sudden Struggling with Canter Work or Leads
  • Explosive Episodes
  • Biting
  • Severity of signs is not always a good measure of severity of ulcers, some are more or less stoic than others. Sometimes signs can be very vague.

Extra Notes

  • Less than 10% ulcers heal on their own.
  • Prolonged periods without food like travel are a big risk factor.
  • New places and changes herd dynamic are very stressful for the horse
  • Horses can take months sometimes up to a year to actually settle into a new environment.

Tips for managing gastric ulcers in horses

  • Always give Omeprazole paste first thing 30-60mins BEFORE hay or hard feed
  • Always feed hay or chaff (2kg-3L) BEFORE exercise or travel
  • If travelling for more than 4 hours, ideally fibre should be provided
  • Most ulcer medication can be given up until 24hrs before most competition or race (check label)
  • Ulcer prone horses may require maintenance doses to keep the stomach pH closer to neutral to avoid reoccurring ulcers
  • A study of 75 warmblood foals showed 85% had gastric ulcers prior to weaning and 100% after weaning
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