Horse Stomach Ulcers - Treatment and Prevention

Horse stomach ulcers involve the ulceration of the oesophageal, gastric or duodenal mucosa. It's an extremely painful condition and they are particularly rife in performance horses with studies revealing them present in over 70% of the population.

Causes of Horse Stomach Ulcers

More often than not, a combination of the following factors increase the chance of a horse developing ulcers:

  • Low roughage intake
  • Withholding feeding for a long period
  • Training on an empty stomach
  • Stress (including physical and behavioural stress)

 Prevention makes for Good Management

Ideally the prevention of ulcers is much better than treating them. It’s important, especially for the performance horse, to encourage better digestive health.

Here are our top tips on how to prevent your beloved horse from developing ulcers.

  • Provide as much turnout as possible with other horses
  • Offer forage (quality hay or grass) continuously
  • Feed alfalfa, which is shown to help buffer stomach acids
  • Reduce or eliminate grain-based feed intake
  • Provide fats as a source of energy/calories
  • Feed multiple small meals throughout the day 
  • Mix chaff with grain meals to increase chewing and slow intake
  • Use hay nets or slow feeders to increase chewing and slow intake
  • Feed beet pulp, a complex carbohydrate metabolized in the hindgut, for higher caloric needs

How to detect horse stomach ulcers

 Currently the only way to accurately confirm ulcers are present in a horse is by having a vet perform Esophagogastroscopy also know as Gastroscopy.  It is usually administered by depriving the horse of food for at least 12 hours and can be quite stressful.

However, you can now get a good indication (without the stress) with this acupressure technique or treat your horse with a trial dose to see if symptoms subside.

How to Treat Horse Ulcers once they've been confirmed

Most vets will prescribe some combination of the following:

  • Omeprazole to suppress production of gastric acid and give the tissue time to heal and prompt the horse to eat (further suppressing the effect of excess stomach acid). An excellent option that is very affordable is Abler's  AbPrazole and AbPrazole Plus, which are easy to use, once a day treatments available in paste, tablet and granule form.

  • A high-roughage, low-concentrate diet
  • Relieve horse from a heavy work or competition schedule.
  • Consider adding a mucosal protectant, such as sulcrafate. These are recommended for use along with omeprazole to aid healing in glandular ulceration.

To find out more about medication for equine ulcers - and where you can get these medications online without a prescription - visit this page.