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Understanding Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome

In an article featured in The Modern Equine Vet, Dr. Frank M. Andrews, DVM, MS, DACVIM-LAIM, LVMA, Equine Committee professor and director of the Equine Health Studies Program at Louisiana State University, discussed many of the facts about Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS), looking at why this happens, what treatments are effective and management practices that can help horses to resolve their ulcers and decrease the incidence of recurrence.

According to Dr. Andrews: “up to 90% of performance horses and up to 50% of all foals develop ulcers and – even with successful treatment- the odds are that the ulcers will recur, sometimes repeatedly.” Dr. Andrews discussed the basics of acid secretion in the horse stomach (they are steady acid secretors), how stomach pH is influenced by how and what is fed, and the location of ulcers within the equine stomach. He lists the following as risk factors:

  • Steady acid secretion in the equine stomach

  • Time spent grazing vs. stall time

  • High grain diets

  • Environmental stress (travel, stall confinement, etc.)

  • Physical stress (training, tack/shoeing changes, etc.)

  • Medical issues (pain, NSAIDS, musculoskeletal issues, etc.).

The only definitive way to diagnose is via gastroscopy. The only FDA-approved medicine for treating EGUS is GastroGard by Merial. Dr. Andrews cautions against the use of compounded products “because we just don’t know if the compounds are truly reliable. So buyers beware.” He talked about the importance of management practices that help to keep the horse fed properly, well-socialized, and training in such a way that promotes the healing of these gastric ulcers.

The take-home message: “Gastric ulceration is multifactorial. Therapy goals should be to eliminate clinical signs, promote healing, relieve pain, prevent secondary complications, and prevent a recurrence."

Article: Ellis, C. Nitty Gritty of Equine Gastric Ulcers. Facing the Facts and Seeking Solutions.

The Modern Equine Vet, vol. 8, issue 3, 2018, pp. 4-11.


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