A horse’s stomach produces acid 24/7, up to 42 litres a day. When the stomach is not full, acid can splash onto the vulnerable upper portion called the squamous (non-glandular) mucosa, which over time can result in stomach/gastric ulcers. In a study published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 88% of performance horses were found to have stomach ulcers and 63% had colonic ulcers. Almost all the horses – 97% – had some type of digestive tract ulceration.
Gastric ulcers have the potential to impact significantly on the performance of the horse. Symptoms may include fatigue, poor appetite, weight loss, poor body condition, behavioural changes eg: nervousness or irritability, dull coat, colic, or windsucking.
Ulcers represent the most well recognised and understood condition of the equine gastric tract. Colic, which is ultimately a symptom of underlying disease, hindgut inflammation, parasitism and other conditions, are common in horses.
At Illawarra Equine Centre, we can offer two alternative methods for diagnosis for gastric issues in horses.
Faecal Blood Tests
Equine faecal blood tests detect blood loss from the gut that points to damage within the equine gastrointestinal tract. The test can be done in the field and is simple to use, affordable and non-invasive. It is an ideal first step to rule out the presence of digestive disease, such as gastric ulcers, colonic ulcers, colitis or other conditions. It is accurate and highly sensitive, particularly for detecting problems in the hindgut.
Illawarra Equine Centre is able to definitively diagnose gastric ulcers, as well as their severity, through gastroscopy.
We run special Gastroscope Days every couple of months at which our clients can bring their horses to the clinic for a 30-minute procedure. The horse is lightly sedated and the scope is fed into their stomach and viewed on a monitor. Prior to the scheduled gastroscopy it is imperative that feed is withheld from the horse for 12-16 hours. Some horses (especially ponies) have a unique ability to scavenge feed from around their environment. This includes eating shavings from their stall and tufts of grass from beyond the yard perimeter. Such horses may require muzzling for 12-16 hours prior to the gastroscopy. Water is also withdrawn for 4-5 hours prior to the scheduled gastroscopy to ensure the stomach is empty.
Treatment for gastric ulcers is highly effective and easy to administer.
Our next scheduled Gastroscope Day is on 22 January 2021. Contact us to reserve a place.