Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome - Agbusinessmail.Com
Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome Karen E. Davison, Ph.D. Manager – Equine Tech. Services LOL Purina Feed Years ago when a show horse became nervous, irritable, “cinchy”, dropped in performance level or went off feed we would think it was a mental issue - just a bad minded horse. Horses with recurrent bouts of colic were often a mystery to owners. We had no idea what was probably going on inside many of them. During the last decade a tremendous amount of research has been conducted on Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS). Studies have revealed that over 90% of race horses and 60% of sport and show horses develop gastric ulcers. Even 60% of foals have some degree of ulceration from birth to weaning. It is reported that half the horses with ulcers show no clinical signs of the condition, but many others do and it often negatively affects performance. Much of the early EGUS research focused on diet. Performance horses usually eat higher levels of grain than their pastured counterparts, who have a much lower incidence of gastric ulcers. Fermentation of grain in the stomach produces higher levels of volatile fatty acids and the increased acid level can contribute to ulceration in the non-glandular portion of the stomach wall. However, more recent research reveals that diet isn’t the single cause. Instead, many factors influence the development of EGUS, including exercise, restricted feed intake, environmental stressors (eg transport and confinement) and the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDS) such as phenylbutazone and flunixin meglamine. When horses exercise, abdominal pressure exerted on the stomach actually causes the stomach to compress. This results in splashing of stomach acid up into the non-glandular region of the stomach, which is a common site for gastric ulcers. This compression occurs at the trot and the lope but returns back to normal at the walk. Exercise also increases the acidity of the stomach. A healthy stomach pH is 4 or above. The pH measured at the walk will be around 4, will decrease at the trot and gallop and stay low until the horse returns to the walk. When two groups of horses were fed the same diet, with one group on a conditioning program and the other group sedentary, none of the sedentary horses developed ulcers but 5 of the 7 exercised horses had ulcers at 12 weeks. Transporting and training horses can also increase the risk of EGUS. In one study, 10 horses were maintained at a “home” facility while 10 others were hauled 4 hours away, housed in stalls, fed and exercised twice a day, then hauled back on the fourth day. In this study, no horses had ulcers on the first day; seven of the hauled horses had ulcers while only 2 of the non-hauled horses had gastric lesions on the fifth day.