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Posted on Oct 20, 2020 in Articles

Understanding Equine Ulcers with Synovium’s vets

Understanding Equine Ulcers with Synovium’s vets

Firstly, equine ulcers are ulcerations and sometimes bleeding of the stomach lining occurring in the horse’s front and/or hind gut. They are caused by prolonged contact of digestive acids with the stomach lining and unlike humans, who only produce digestive acid during eating, horses produce stomach acid 24/7. Which leads to why horses need to graze throughout the day and those that cannot are commonly suffers of equine ulcers. 

We are understanding Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) in horses more and therefore it is more commonly diagnosed with studies indicating the prevalence of equine ulcers to be 93% in race horses, 63% in elite horses, 37% in leisure horses and high percentages in foals from weeks old to post weaning. 

Let us understand how the horse’s gut works…

Horses are hindgut fermenters, therefore meaning that the large intestine is where breakdown of fibre takes place. Fibre is the main component of the horse’s forage which is broken down by microorganisms to produce essential nutrients that the horse absorbs.

Because the hindgut is geared for fibre fermentation, it is susceptible to upset due to receiving large amounts of undigested sugars.

The ideal balance between these good microbes and harmful bacteria can be easily upset 

So, what are the common causes of Equine Ulcers?

  • Fasting or intermittent feeding has been shown to induce gastric ulceration in horses. In the wild, horses are continuously grazing (approx. 16-18 hours per day), so the stomach is rarely empty, the food in the stomach neutralises the stomach acid, as well as by saliva which contains bicarbonate and is produced as the horse chews. When a domesticated horse experiences prolonged periods without forage, excessive amounts of acid build up causing ulceration.
  • A high grain diet would also upset the balance within the stomach. Diets high in concentrates have also been proven in clinical trials to induce ulcers. It is important to avoid sudden changes in forage/ feed (7-10 days at least is recommended).
  • Being exercised on an empty stomach is thought to contribute to the development of gastric ulcers. During exercise, blood flow to the stomach is reduced and the pressure in the abdomen is increased therefore forcing the stomach acid up into the sensitive area of the gut. It is suggested that if a horse has been stabled without constant access to forage, or if it has been more than a couple of hours since the horse last ate, you should feed your horse before exercise. However, you should only feed forage before exercising your horse such as hay.
  • Physical stresses such as illness, infection, injury, shock, parasites, travelling, increased stabling may cause ulcers again due to the restricted blood flow to the stomach and an increased acid production.
  • Psychological stress such as being in a stressful situation may cause an increased acid production.

It is important to keep the balance of good and bad bacteria exactly right for each individual horse.

How can I tell if my horse has ulcers?

As vets we hear this question very often and identifying those horses with gastric ulceration can be difficult as early signs can be confused with mild colic. Horses can show many different signs and different horses react at different levels for their ulceration. But as a horse owner you can look out for the most common signs for a quicker diagnosis.  

Some typical clinical signs of EGUS may include: 

  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Poor condition
  • Poor performance
  • Behavioural changes
  • Mild or recurrent colic
  • Loose droppings 
  • Excess time lying down 

Equine ulcers can be confirmed by your vet via gastric endoscopy. An endoscopy is inserted into the horse’s stomach to assess the esophagus, squamous and glandular regions of the stomach. 

The types of ulcers found in horses are

Squamous ulcers (ESGD) refer to ulcerative lesions effecting the squamous (top third) part of the stomach. They are caused by the physical splashing of the stomach acids on the stomach lining. They are normally associated with changes in appetite, poor performance or changes in behaviour. Squamous ulcers occur with restricted grazing, lack of access to water, high starch diets, exercising on empty stomachs, and psychological stresses.

Glandular ulcers (EGGD) occur less frequently and affect the bottom parts of the stomach, especially the antrum. Ulcers form slowly and occur when the integrity of the mucosal lining deteriorates. When this happens its natural defence system to gastric acid is compromised leading to the development of inflammation and lesions. The clinical signs are more variable and non-specific.

Treating Equine Ulcers

Your vet can provide a treatment course of omeprazole which can be effective for Squamous ulcers but less so for Glandular ulcer. Managing the horse’s diet and lifestyle can have the biggest impact on preventing recurrence of ulcers and providing relief. 

Prevention of ulcers is key we should mimic horses being at nature by allowing them to graze often or have access to forage such as hay frequently. 

Supplements are commonly used for treatment and prevention of gastric ulcers. There are many supplements on the market that claim to treat/prevent ulcers and you should only trust those that have been validated in competent scientific studies and clinical trials. 

Synovium’s leading vets are dedicated to supporting your horse correctly with scientifically proven supplements that you can trust. Synovium Gastrosafe has been extensively trialled and proven to improve gastric ulcer scores after 6 weeks of administration. It is ideal for horses during and after veterinary treatment for ulcers or as an alternative for legal competition. 

Gastrosafe helps control gastric acidity, providing essential amino acids and prebiotics, whilst supporting the natural anti-inflammatory processes in the front and hind gut. Also providing essential support to horses during stressful activities, travelling, competition and any changes in routine.

What is in Synovium Gastrosafe?

Calcium carbonate – Antiacid helps neutralizes stomach acids

Seaweed (Laminaria Hyperborea) – extremely palatable and provides increased digestible energy sources. Hyperborea contains higher amounts of vitamins, minerals and proteins, when compared to conventional vegetable sources.

Magnesium Hydroxide – Antiacid helps neutralize stomach acids

Fructooligosaccharides (FOS)- Prebiotic, provides a food source to beneficial hindgut bacteria to promote their growth. Also helping to limit the level of lactic acid produced during fermentation. 

L-Glutamine – is the most abundant amino acid in horses and can be useful for replenishing the natural supply of L-glutamine depleted during stress and training. Glutamine supports the gut against damage and infection. 

L-Threonine – an essential amino acid which studies have shown that the restriction of this nutrient may limit intestinal mucin synthesis and reduce gut barrier function. A deficiency of L-Threonine slows the regeneration of the gut wall and depresses the production of mucus.

Synovium Gastrosafe is £47.99 per 1.5kg (1-month supply at £1.54 per day)

£126 per 4.5kg (3-month supply at £1.30 per day)

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