ID MyHorse

Gastric Ulcers in Horses

As I mentioned previously, I am a small animal veterinarian, not an equine one. I can very accurately tell you the weight of just about any dog by looking at it. However, I’m not nearly as adept at assessing horse flesh.

I told my equine vet friend about my young gelding’s attitude. After a visual assessment of his condition, she told me she thought he might have ulcers. Furthermore, she suggested I treat him with omniprazole. The protocol, if a horse isn’t scoped (which is ideal of course) is to treat for about 5 days and see if it makes a difference in attitude or appetite. If it does, you treat daily for 2-4 weeks, depending on who you ask or what you read.

If it doesn’t result in any appreciable change in the horse, you stop. I can order GastroGuard from my veterinary supply places and it still costs me a lot of money, so one doesn’t treat a horse just for fun.

I did see a considerable change in Finn. He was far more interested in eating. He would readily come into his stall for grain instead of playing hard-to-get or just plain totally disinterested. Furthermore, he was calmer and more relaxed. I continued to treat him. Now, when I trailer him or put him in a stressful situation, I will pretreat him to hopefully prevent an issue. He’s a classic candidate for equine ulcers. He’s a bit tightly wound, and not very worldly, so all of this new stuff on the trail is quite stressful for him.

I rode him last Monday with a friend. It was Finn’s first time trailering away from home without Kadeen, my other horse. It was Finn’s first time down the trail not following his buddy. Coincidentally, my friend’s horse wasn’t in a particularly confident mood that day. Therefore, Finn ended up in front for the majority of the time!

He did great, although every log was a snake and around every bend was a horse-eating monster of some kind. He was far from relaxed, but I was really proud of him. We did have a few arguments, and once or twice he got light in the front again. I really don’t like that….

When he would do that, I’d dismount, move his feet, remount, and point him in the direction I wanted him to go…. And he went. We crossed sort of a creek, and one muddy patch, and amazingly Finn lived to tell the tale. (Thankfully, me too!)

The Merck Veterinary Manual article Gastric Ulcers in Horses has this to say about ulcers in adult horses:

Adult horses with ulcers display nonspecific signs, including abdominal discomfort (colic), poor appetite, mild weight loss, poor body condition, and attitude changes. Horses with severe abdominal pain or colic may have gastric ulcers, but they are unlikely to be the primary cause of the abdominal pain. No strong correlation between the extent of ulceration and the severity of clinical signs has been seen.

Finn doesn’t have poor body condition but he is a little “ribbier” than Kadeen in spite of plenty of groceries. While the article concurs that an absolute diagnosis can only be made using endoscopy, it states:

A presumptive diagnosis can be reasonably made from significant reduction in clinical signs after several days of treatment with a medication known to be effective in raising gastric pH and allowing healing of gastric mucosa.

I am hopeful that as Finn’s confidence level increases, his propensity to crank acid unnecessarily will decrease. He sure landed in the right family, as I have had gastric surgery for the same issue, and six weeks ago my boyfriend had the same procedure! We are awash with Type A’s here! Confidence is the key on the trail. Tomorrow, we are braving the horrendous heat we are experiencing here and hitting the road, and the trails, once again. Happy Trails to you!

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