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Preventing and Treating Gastric Ulcers in High-Performance Horses

Understanding and Treating Gastric Ulcers in Horses

Gastric ulcers are a common issue among horses, particularly those in high-intensity performance industries. In this article, we’ll explore what gastric ulcers are, what causes them, their signs and symptoms, and how they can be treated.

Prevalence of Gastric Ulcers in Horses

Gastrointestinal ulcers are a widespread health issue among horses. Studies suggest that they may be present in up to 90% of racehorses and 60% of performance horses.

Horses in stressful environments, such as constant transport, may be at an increased risk of suffering from ulcers.

Causes of Gastric Ulcers in Horses

A horse’s routine, feeding, and environment can all contribute to the development of gastric ulcers. The following are some of the most common causes:

Feeding: Horses need to graze continuously, allowing for the production of ample amounts of saliva to neutralize their stomach acid.

When horses go for long periods without eating, their stomach acid can irritate their stomach lining. Routine: Horses bred for racing may be kept in stables for lengthy periods, and they are transported frequently.

These factors can put considerable stress on their digestive systems. Transport: The stress of transportation, such as long journeys in trailers, can cause horses to develop ulcers.

NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs might lead to ulcers’ development because they go through the body and cause the digestive system to create less mucus, which serves as a protective layer within the stomach. Changes in Routine: Changes in a horse’s routine, such as a new diet or living environment, can cause discomfort.

Signs and

Symptoms of Gastric Ulcers in Horses

The symptoms of gastric ulcers are difficult to spot and can manifest in various ways. The following are some of the most common signs that your horse may be experiencing gastrointestinal issues:

Decreased Appetite: As a result of stomach pain, horses may lose their appetite.

Teeth Grinding: This is a common sign that your horse has discomfort. Behavioral Resistance: Unusual resistance when being ridden may be an early sign of ulcers.

Weight Loss and Poor Body Condition: Horses that have difficulty maintaining weight and have rough coat coats may have ulcers. Soft Stools: Diarrhea may occur as a result of ulcers.

Increased Irritability: Horses that aren’t feeling well are more likely to show signs of crankiness or aggression. Dull Coat: A horse with a dull coat may indicate that your horse is feeling unwell.

Rolling and Rearing: If your horse starts to roll or rear, they may have painful ulcers. Girth Sensitivity: Some horses may have girth sensitivity, which could be due to an ulcer.

Poor Appetite and Resistance to Training: A horse that suddenly develops a poor appetite and is unwilling to cooperate during training sessions may be affected by an ulcer. Weight Loss, Reluctance to Finish Grain: A horse that has trouble maintaining weight and is unwilling to eat their grain may also have gastric ulcers.

It is critical to consult with an equine veterinarian as soon as possible if you suspect that your horse has ulcers.

Importance of Seeking Veterinary Assistance

Ulcers are painful and could lead to severe health issues if left untreated, so it’s critical to seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will diagnose the ulcer through an endoscopic examination and devise a treatment plan to control their spread.

Treatment Options for Gastric Ulcers in Horses

Treating ulcers may necessitate a horse’s lifestyle changes, such as increasing their grazing area and reducing unnecessary stress. Medication is usually recommended to cure ulcers.

The following medications may be prescribed for horses with ulcers:

GastroGard: This medication eliminates ulcers by reducing the stomach’s production of acid, restoring the delicate ecosystem in the stomach and enabling healing to occur. Omeprazole: This medication works similarly to GastroGard, but it takes about four weeks to cure ulcers.

Ranitidine: This medication operates similarly to antacids in people, neutralizing the acid in the horse’s stomach. Cimetidine: This medication, like Ranitidine, helps to neutralize stomach acid, but it should never be used in pregnant mares.

Sucralfate: This medication, a paste or tablet type, increases mucus in the stomach to create a protective barrier against acid. Following Vet’s Instructions for Treatment and Weaning Off Medication

It is essential to adhere to your vet’s instructions for the proper treatment of your horse’s ulcers to ensure that they recover completely.

Ironically, progress may not be detected until the medication is fully reduced or eliminated. Weaning your horse off medication is a similarly detailed process that requires close adherence to the vet’s instructions.


In conclusion, equine gastric ulcers are a common and potentially dangerous ailment in horses of all types, including performance horses. To prevent a horse from getting ulcers, allow for frequent grazing, reduce stressful situations, and maintain a constant stable environment.

Consult with an equine veterinarian as soon as possible if you believe your horse is showing signs of gastric ulcers. Following the initial diagnosis, it is crucial to adhere to the medication plan and treatment instructions to ensure a speedy and full ulcer recovery.

Preventing Gastric Ulcers in Horses

Gastric ulcers can be a painful and costly issue to deal with in horses. The best way to avoid ulcers is to take the necessary precautions to prevent them from occurring.

In this article, we will discuss how to prevent gastric ulcers in horses by changing the horse’s lifestyle and proper feeding routines, adding alfalfa hay to the diet, spreading out feedings over several times a day, and considering using UlcerGard or GastroGard during high-stress times. Changing the Horse’s Lifestyle

One of the best ways to prevent gastric ulcers in horses is to change their lifestyle.

Free choice hay is crucial for a horse’s health as it promotes the production of saliva, which helps to neutralize stomach acid. Turnout also helps reduce stress a horse may experience by providing them with a natural setting to graze and relax.

Additionally, it is best to have a consistent training routine rather than abrupt changes in the horse’s regime.

Importance of Effective Feeding Routine

An effective feeding routine is crucial to prevent gastric ulcers. It is best to provide small and frequent meals to horses to avoid long periods without food.

Grazing and foraging are essential to maintaining a healthy digestive system. It is best to have a consistent, low-stress environment so that horses can graze throughout the day.

If foraging isn’t available, frequent hay rations can substitute for natural grazing. Ultimately, the key is to reduce the stress levels in horses.

Adding Alfalfa hay to the Diet

Alfalfa hay is an excellent supplement to add to a horse’s diet and can be an effective preemptive measure against stomach ulcers. Alfalfa hay is high in calcium, which acts as a buffer for excess stomach acid.

Absorbing excess acid within the stomach can decrease the chance of damaging the stomach lining and gastric ulcers from forming.

Spreading Out Feedings Over Several Times a Day

Reducing the amount of time between feedings can prevent stomach ulcers from forming. By moving the daily feeding into smaller more frequent meals spread out a few times throughout the day, the horse will produce large amounts of saliva to neutralize stomach acid.

Feeding the horse three times a day instead of the typical morning and evening can help reduce stress and provide a consistent schedule that horses can adapt to.

Consider Using UlcerGard or GastroGard During High-Stress Times

Some horses may require preventative measures against stomach ulcers, especially during high-stress times. UlcerGard and GastroGard can be used as a preventative measure against stomach ulcers.

Administering an ulcer preventative medication at a low, preventive dose during times of stress and high activity levels can help reduce the likelihood of stomach ulcers forming in horses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Proper Treatment for Gastric Ulcers in Horses

The most effective treatment for stomach ulcers in horses is a prolonged use of Omeprazole. If an ulcer is suspected, gastroscopy may be used to identify the severity and location of the ulcer.

Symptoms of Gastric Ulcers in Horses

Symptoms of stomach ulcers in horses include decreased appetite, poor coat quality, weight loss, poor performance, behavioral changes, and low-grade colic. Ulcers can appear in horses in many ways, making identifying ulcers more difficult.

Recovery Time for Horses with Gastric Ulcers

Treatment time for stomach ulcers in horses typically lasts up to four weeks and can vary based on other contributing factors. However, even with successful treatment, ulcers could still recur if the root cause remains.

Feeding a Horse with Stomach Ulcers

Horses with stomach ulcers should be fed small amounts of grain regularly throughout the day instead of large meals. Alfalfa hay supplementation is crucial as it can neutralize stomach acid, leading to relief in pain and a slight reduction of inflammation.

Can Gastric Ulcers in Horses Go Away? Gastric ulcers can go away in some cases, especially if the root cause is not ongoing stress but rather an environmental factor.

By reducing stress levels and managing the horse’s environment, it may be possible for ulcers to heal. However, if the root cause continues or is not addressed, then the ulcers may return.

In conclusion, gastric ulcers are a significant health concern for horses, affecting a large percentage of performance horses. To prevent these ulcers, horse owners must take extensive preventative measures, including changing the horse’s lifestyle, following an effective feeding routine, adding alfalfa hay to the diet, and spreading out feedings to reduce stress.

However, if ulcers do occur, identifying the symptoms, seeking proper veterinary care, providing consistent medication, and reducing stress is crucial to ensure a total recovery. By implementing a comprehensive management plan and staying vigilant to ulcers, horse owners can ensure their horses have long and healthy lives.


Q: What is the most effective treatment for gastric ulcers in horses? A: The most effective treatment is prolonged use of Omeprazole, although it is important to determine the severity and location of the ulcer through gastroscopy.

Q: What are the common symptoms of gastric ulcers in horses? A: Symptoms of gastric ulcers in horses include decreased appetite, poor coat quality, weight loss, poor performance, behavioral changes, and low-grade colic.

Q: How long does it take for a horse with gastric ulcers to recover? A: The treatment time can last up to four weeks and can vary based on other contributing factors.

Q: How should a horse with gastric ulcers be fed? A: Horses with ulcers should be fed small amounts of grain regularly throughout the day and supplemented with alfalfa hay, which can neutralize stomach acid, providing pain relief and slightly reducing inflammation.

Q: Can gastric ulcers in horses go away on their own? A: In some cases, gastric ulcers can heal on their own, provided the root cause is not ongoing stress.

However, if the underlying cause remains, the ulcers may return.

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