Gastric Ulcers; Everything You Need to Know

In 2015 The European College of Equine Internal Medicine  (ECEIM) released a consensus statement regarding Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome. The foundation of a consensus statement is evidenced-based medicine, but if such evidence is conflicting or lacking the panel provides interpretive recommendations based on their collective expertise. 

Using the above paper as a guide we can now tell you what you need to know about gastric ulcers in horses!

The term Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) was first used in 1999 to describe gastric ulceration in the horse.

Incidence: Common in thoroughbreds with incidence increasing from 37% to 80-100% within 2-3 months of race training. Horses that are rarely competed and are predominantly used in their home environment have the lowest prevalence of 11%.

Clinical signs: Reported clinical signs include poor appetite or picky eating, poor body condition, bruxism (teeth grinding), behavioural changes (including a nervous or aggressive disposition) acute or recurrent colic and poor performance. There is little statistical evidence linking diarrhoea and poor coat condition to equine gastric ulcer syndrome.

Diagnosis: Gastroscopy.

Treatment: Oral administration of Omeperazole and management of risk factors.

Risk Factors: Excessive grain intake, intermittent access to water and intermittent fasting are all associated with increased risk of equine gastric ulcer syndrome. Additionally training in an urban environment, lack of contact with other horses, feeding large amounts of straw and the use of oral electrolyte pastes or oral hypertonic solutions have all been identified as risk factors.

Prevention: In addition to the management of the risk factors outlined above and the administration of Omeperazole to horses prone to gastric ulcers, the following management practices are recommended.

  • Allow continuous access to good quality grass pasture or, if the horse is stabled, ad lib hay.
  • Horses should receive a minimum of 1.5kg of roughage/100kg bodyweight per day.
  • Feed grain and concentrates as sparingly as possible.
  • Concentrate meals should be fed at least 6 hours apart.
  • The diet should not exceed 2g/kg bodyweight of starch per meal.
  • Fresh water should be provided continuously.
  •  Electrolytes should be mixed in with the feed or given in lower doses in water.

Click the following link to read Equestology's full summary of "The  2015  European College of Equine Internal Medicine  (ECEIM) Consensus Statement - Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome in Adult Horses"