Gastric ulceration in horses is identical in its form to ulceration in humans. Erosions of the stomach wall occur when the stomach acid literally eats it away. It has only recently become clear as to how many horses are affected by this condition. Recent studies have shown that between 70-100% of horses can be affected; this includes mainly both sport horses and race horses in training.
What causes gastric ulceration?
The normal equine stomach has high levels of acids and enzymes present that would normally destroy and breakdown the lining of the stomach. To prevent this happening the stomach wall has protective mechanisms. Ulceration occurs when the levels of acids and enzymes overcome the protective mechanisms and therefore damage to the stomach lining occurs.
What are the signs of gastric ulceration?
The signs can be quite subtle and affected horses may be lethargic, have poor performance, decreased appetite, weight loss and recurrent bouts of colic. In foals, however, the signs are more severe as they have bouts of colic and may also develop diarrhoea. Due to the discomfort, foals tend to grind their teeth and salivate excessively.
How can I prevent gastric ulceration?
Stress, diet, exercise and certain drugs can all increase the risks of your horse developing gastric ulcers. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to give you specific advice on each aspect.