As an owner, we understand that you know your horse best. If you feel that they begin to display a change in temperament or performance, our team will do everything possible to identify the problem.
There is an age-old debate about pain vs behaviour in horses and how we know which is affecting them. Gastric Disease, previously known as Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) commonly affects numerous horses from happy hackers, to high-end competition horses. Latest research on the condition, shows that there are 2 different diseases affecting 2 different parts of the stomach, each requiring a different treatment protocol.
Every horse can be affected by gastric disease however, some breeds/types of athlete are predisposed to the condition. Thoroughbreds and retired racehorses are commonly pre-disposed to gastric disease due to their more highly strung nature and racing upbringing. Arab horses can also be commonly affected as well as those competition horses who travel and stay away from home frequently.
If you have noticed any of the following changes in your horse, please do not hesitate to contact our team.
- Temperament change: If their usual temperament is relaxed but they are now showing aggressive behaviour towards you and other horses, it may be that they are in pain. Common signs are being sensitive when groomed especially around the girth and stomach area.
- Ridden performance: A change in performance is often a key indicator for many owners. If your horse is refusing to go forward, stopping at jumps or starting to buck or rear, these are all signs they are not feeling their usual selves.
- Reduced appetite: Keep in mind that reduced appetite may lead to other problems and not every case may be due to ulcers. It is important that you seek veterinary advice as soon as possible as they may be suffering from colic, a viral condition or dental problems.
- Poor body condition or weight loss: Signs of gastric disease may include your horse looking thinner or developing a dull coat.
- Colic episodes: Due to stomach pain horses can often show mild colic signs when suffering from gastric disease. Pawing at the ground, lip curling, rolling and teeth grinding are all associated symptoms.
- Young horses and foals are more difficult to assess for symptoms. Often they will display mild colic signs (teeth grinding, a change in droppings) and an increase in salivation or lying down.
The 2 types of Equine Gastric Disease
If your horse is displaying any of the symptoms listed above, it could be related to Equine Glandular Gastric Disease (EGGD) or Equine Squamous Gastric Disease (ESGD). The names stem from 2 different regions of the stomach. EGGD refers to the bottom part of the stomach where the acid sits within the glandular lining of the stomach. ESGD refers to the squamous region which occupies the top part of the stomach where the lining is not protected against the acidic environment and is referred to as the non-glandular region. Saliva produced by constant chewing and the steady trickle of roughage into the stomach buffers the stomach acids, however, if a horse becomes stressed or stops eating, excess acid is produced and is no longer buffered. This can cause acid to splash against the squamous region, causing lesions and ulcerated regions of tissue which can become very painful. Without treatment this becomes more painful and will increase the stress levels of your horse.
Diagnosis of Equine Gastric Disease
The only way to definitively diagnose equine gastric disease is to carry out gastroscopy using a 3 metre long narrow gastroscope tube with a medical camera fixed to the end. The horse is sedated and restrained safely in stocks and the gastroscope is passed through the horse’s nose, down the oesophagus and into the stomach. This allows the vet to visualise the stomach lining and note if there are any ulcerated regions. Please note that in order to be able to visualise the lining of the stomach clearly the stomach needs to be fully empty. Consequently, it is highly important that your horse is starved of food 16 hours prior to the procedure with water taken away 2 hours prior, otherwise the food content will block the camera view.
Once the vet has finished the procedure, the horse is moved to a comfortable stable allowing the sedation to wear off before travelling home. Our vet will then discuss with you the various treatment options available. We aim to tailor aftercare to each individual horse, offering treatment in either oral syringes or intra-muscular injections. We also offer feed supplements and additional buffering agents which can help your horse’s stomach to heal.
Tips to reduce the risk of Equine Gastric Disease:
By implementing this advice into your horse’s everyday management, it can help to reduce the risk of gastric ulcers:
- Allow your horse to have access to forage throughout the day with no prolonged intervals of starvation. A small hole haynet or multiple piles of forage around the stable can help with this.
- Allow free access to fresh water 24 hours a day to encourage drinking.
- Food rations should be split into smaller multiple rations where possible to encourage foraging activities of the horse.
- Feeding a handful of chaff to a horse pre-exercise can help to buffer stomach acid, reducing the risk of the ESGD.
- Management changes should be implemented gradually to minimise changes in stomach pH.
- Travelling and staying away from home should be minimised where possible to reduce stress induced gastric problems.
If you would like to discuss your horse with our team, please contact us today on 01327 811007.