Horses are naturally quite prone to gastrointestinal issues, and gastric ulcers are one of the most common. It’s important to know how to keep your horse happy, safe and comfortable. Here’s some tips on how to prevent gastric ulcers in horses.
What Causes Gastric Ulcers?
There are a few different factors that may contribute to the development of equine gastric ulcers. Ulcers develop due to the presence of gastric acid, which irritates the lining of the stomach and ultimately leads to the development of ulcers.
Below are a few common causes:
- High stress levels
- Intensive, repetitive exercise
- Non-steroidal medications
- Fasting - providing horses with two meals each day and limited access to constant grazing allows stomach acids to become unbalanced
- Lack of roughage in diet - roughage requires more chewing, which in turn produces more saliva. Saliva acts as a natural barrier against harmful stomach acids
Symptoms of Equine Gastric Ulcers
As equestrians, we constantly find ourselves wishing that our horses could speak to us - this is especially true in the case of injury or illness.
It’s crucial to understand the signs and symptoms of gastric ulcers in your horse to be able to help them in a timely manner. Below are some common symptoms and signs of equine gastric ulcers:
- Decreased appetite
- Teeth grinding
- Unwillingness to bend or extend
- Dramatic weight loss
- Muscle loss
- Change in temperance or attitude
- Laying down for extended amounts of time
- Lack of energy
If you notice any of the above symptoms or signs in your horse, it’s crucial that you immediately contact your veterinarian. He or she can detect the presence of ulcers by completing an gastric endoscopy. In some cases, gastric ulcers will be found using fecal blood tests, ultrasounds, or pH tests in the manure.
If your veterinarian has confirmed the presence of gastric ulcers in your horse, it’s likely that they will help you develop a treatment plan to help treat the condition. Ulcer treatments are typically composed of medicines, including:
- Digestive supplements
- Mucosal protectants
- H2 blockers
The medicine that is used to treat your horse’s ulcer is up to the type of ulcer that is detected and the discretion of your veterinarian. Treatment for equine ulcers typically lasts for a period of about 28 days.
It’s important to keep in mind that though your horse’s symptoms may go away, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the ulcers are gone; it could simply mean that the medicines are doing their job.
Your veterinarian will conduct another series of tests in order to ensure that the ulcers have been successfully treated before the medication is completed.
In order to ensure that your horse does not become susceptible to ulcers again, be sure to keep their diet consistent, provide them with constant access to grazing or roughage in their stall, and try to keep their level of exercise at a stable level.
Following the tips you’ve learned here, you will be well equipped for helping your horse avoid gastric ulcers.
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