How to Manage Horses with Gastric Ulcers

How to Manage Horses with Gastric Ulcers

Ulcers often occur in the upper third of the stomach, which does not have a mucus layer and does not secrete bicarbonate that helps to buffer stomach acid.

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From AQHA Corporate Partner Nutrena

Many horse owners today are concerned with ulcers and their horse’s gastrointestinal health. Although some breeds are more prone than others, all breeds of horses, including American Quarter Horses, can be plagued by this condition. The percentage of horses with ulcers continues to increase, and higher intensity levels of training are correlated with an increase in ulcer incidence. Here, we offer some basic nutritional tips to help keep these gastric concerns at bay. 

When it comes to gastric discomfort, a horse might show subtle symptoms like just being “off his game.” Sometimes a lack of appetite or change in disposition may accompany gastric upset. Your horse may also experience mild colic flare-ups. 

It’s always important to contact your veterinarian if you feel your horse may have an ulcer. In addition, here are some “back to basics” steps to help manage your horse’s condition:

  1. Allow the horse to be turned out or hand grazed as much as possible.

  2. If access to pasture is not possible, good quality hay is a must. Recent studies indicate that legume hay such as alfalfa is an excellent choice due to the high calcium content which may help to serve as a buffer.

  3. Breaking the daily rations into smaller more frequent meals helps keep saliva production constant and protect the stomach lining – more like “grazers” instead of “meal eaters.” If possible, use a slow feed hay net (also called a nibble net) to allow the horse to consume hay more slowly and increase chewing time. Also, it’s a good idea to feed hay prior to grain.

  4. High starch diets also tend to aggravate ulcers due to increased acid production. A high fat, high fiber feed is ideal.

  5. Consider a digestive supplement such as Nutrena Empower Digestive Balance, which contains marine sourced calcite. It is a highly porous form of calcium, includes other trace minerals such as magnesium, and has twice the buffering capacity of regular calcium carbonate.

This feeding plan may also be useful in reducing the risk of having ulcers redevelop after a horse has been treated with appropriate medication.

It’s important to remember that all horses are unique and respond differently to stressors. If you can minimize stress as much as possible, provide your horse with access to pasture and light exercise, offer quality nutrition and forage, you are helping to limit the chance your horse will develop ulcers.

About the Source: Nutrena

AQHA Corporate Partner Nutrena is one of the world's largest equine nutrition companies, feeding more than one million horses per day.