Environmental Management and Equine Gastric Ulcers

Credit: Thinkstock Allowing horses free-choice forage in the form or hay or grazing can help prevent ulcers.

You may be surprised to discover how common gastric ulcers are in the equine population. Some studies have shown the prevalence of gastric ulcers to be higher than 70% of the observed population. There are a variety of reasons why this may be. According to Michigan State University Extension, several environmental factors may cause your horse to be more susceptible to ulcers.

Many factors can lead to gastric ulcers (in a variety of species) including:

  • Rapid change in diet
  • Change in environment or living condition
  • Compromised immune system
  • Routine change (exercise, location or new horses to pasture)

Do you know the warning signs that ulcers may be present? Unfortunately, no two horses are alike and their symptoms may be very different. Additionally, some horses may show little to no signs that they are suffering from ulcers.

Common clinical signs of an ulcer problem:

  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Mild colic symptoms
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea

Although there are challenges in diagnosing ulcers, the best advice is prevention. Avoiding gastric ulcers will save you time and money as well as help prevent unnecessary pain caused by the ulcers. 

Here are some management tips for preventing ulcers:

  • Provide free-choice forage in the form of hay or pasture
  • Provide opportunities for turnout and grazing as much as possible
  • Reduce the amount of grain in the diet
  • Feed small meals of grain more frequently

Are you looking to learn more about gastric ulcers in horses? My Horse University and eXtension have a great webcast on the subject. In the webcast, you’ll learn what causes gastric ulcers, how your veterinarian can diagnose ulcers and how your veterinarian will treat them. Of course, the prevention of this problem is ideal, so that, too, will be discussed in the webcast.

For more information on horses visit Michigan State University Extension.






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