More horses than you might imagine have gastric ulcers. It has been estimated that nearly 60% of show horses might have moderate to severe ulcers. Roughly one-third of stalled horses are at risk for this painful condition. Because horses stomachs are smaller and constantly producing gastric acids, it is essential to provide a diet that meets their needs.
Your horse could be at risk if his lifestyle and diet consistent of the following:
- Stress can decrease the blood flow to the stomach, which impacts the lining
- Lack of roughage can increase the likelihood because chewing hay produces saliva that neutralizes acids
- Certain medicines
- Strenuous exercise
- Not eating frequently enough
The symptoms can be almost transparent, which makes it important to monitor your horse for even the slightest changes in behavior, attitude, and their body.
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Sensitive to touch
- Poor attitude
- Lying down frequently
- Decreased performance
- Loose feces
In order to help your horse overcome gastric ulcers you should be prepared to change his lifestyle and possibly provide him with medication. Begin by taking him out to pasture, or at least provide him hay throughout the day. His meals should be smaller, but more frequent. Probiotics are a good supplement to add that support good digestion.
For moderate to severe ulcers, medication will most likely be necessary. Some decrease the amount of acid produced, while others protect the lining or act as a buffer. They may include H2 blockers, protectants, and proton pump inhibitors. Speak with your veterinarian to develop a plan.
Treat your horse immediately when you first notice symptoms or suspect ulcers may be an issue. Ulcers can be very uncomfortable for your horse. They are not something to take lightly.