Holistic Horse Health: Yes, your horse does have an ulcer

Ulcers in horses are a major problem. The conventional wisdom is that 60% or more of horses in training have ulcers. I believe this is a low estimate. In my opinion there are the horses in training that already have ulcers and the ones that are going to have ulcers. When I talk about horse ulcers I mean inflammation anywhere in the digestive tract not just stomach ulcers.

When I am working on performance horses I am always looking for ulcers. Signs I look for are vertebral immobility in the mid back, sensitivity in the ribcage, tightness in the shoulders, poor hair coat, dull demeanor or irritability. Because horses have such different levels of tolerance to ulcers I can’t always connect degree of symptoms with degree of damage. I prefer to use the natural products for horse ulcers before reaching for acid blocking drugs.

Symptoms of ulcers in horses:

Vertebral immobility in the mid back region
Sensitivity in the ribcage
Tightness in the shoulders
Poor hair coat
Dull demeanor

My horse ulcer management program is directed at prevention through digestive support, treatment of mild ulcers and treatment of severe ulcers. I believe that any horse in training should be on a ulcer management program even if it is something as basic as pre and probiotic support which helps keep the lining of the gut healthy. Good bacteria fill all the tiny spaces between the gut cells so they provide a mechanical barrier to stomach acid or other acids produced from fermenting food. We offer several digestive products such as PreProbiotics, KLPP, Fastrack, and probi. Powdered blue green algae and convenient packets of algae, acidophilus, bifidus and enzymes also contain pre and probiotics.

Low starch diets and alfalfa hay also decrease the development of ulcers. Alfalfa will buffer the stomach acid levels for 6 to 8 hours after being consumed. If high starch grains must be fed then adding some fat will help decrease ulcer formation. Small frequent grain meals with free choice hay are much better than fewer, larger feedings.

If you go on the assumption, as I do, that ulcers are always forming in a horse in training then you want to support the body in healing the lining of the gut before the areas of inflammation become full blown ulcers. My horse ulcer management program always includes whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals that support healing. Powdered blue green algae or packets of algae, acidophilus, bifidus, and enzymes provide pre and probiotics, natural antioxidants and a wide range of vitamins and minerals to support healing.

Prevention of  horse ulcers:
Pre and probiotics such as powdered alage, KLPP, Probi, Fastrack
Low starch diets
Alfalfa hay
Nutrient rich whole foods to support healing and decrease inflammation

Treatment of mild horse ulcers involves using natural products which sooth and protect the gut lining. Examples of digestive products include UF, aloe/slippery elm, Stomach Soother and  Succeed. Severe ulcers will often require expensive acid blocking drugs such as Gastrogaurd and or antibiotic treatment. If these products are used it should only be for a short time and as a part of an overall ulcer prevention and treatment program. Unless management and nutritional changes are instituted you will not see long term improvement in ulcers in horses from drugs alone.

Examples of products for treatment of mild horse ulcers:

Aloe/slippery elm
Stomach Soother

Treatment of severe horse ulcers:
Acid blocking drugs

Ulcers in horses are a common problem in horses in training but they can be prevented or treated with natural products as part of an overall  horse ulcer management program. Waiting until severe ulcers develop will be costly and cause your horse unnecessary pain. Start an ulcer management program today! Madalyn

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