Let’s Talk Equine Gastric Ulcers

If you follow my instagram account (@thefetchingmare), then you already know I am dealing with a bad case of gastric ulcers with Piper. This is my first experience with ulcers, so naturally I went down an ulcer-rabbit-hole to research as much as I possibly could about them.

Hopefully this will help any fellow equestrians also dealing with ulcers in their fur-babies! Let start with the basics…

What are equine gastric ulcers?

A gastric ulcer is a lesion in the stomach lining. They score ulcers on a grading scale of 0 through 4, 0 showing no sign of lesions and 4 showing extensive lesions and ulceration scarring.

Your horse can have ulcers in the stomach, but ulcers can also be present in the hind gut. Did you know that over half of the cases of stomach ulcers also showed symptoms of hind gut ulcers? I’m (almost) 100% positive that Piper has hind gut ulcers due to the symptoms she has been showing.

What Are the Symptoms of Equine Gastric Ulcers?

  1. Weight loss and loss of appetite
  2. Resistance under saddle — for Piper, this included rearing, kicking out, bucking, and everything in between.
  3. Irritability and other changes in attitude — along with #2, Piper had a permanent angry face and was an all around different horse within the span of 72 hours.
  4. Lack of energy and stamina
  5. Behavior indicating discomfort around the stomach/flanks — I couldn’t even brush my horse anymore without her trying to bite and kick me, especially under her belly.

It’s important to remember that gastric and hind gut ulcers can present very similarly but are treated differently, so it’s important to either 1) get your horse scoped by a vet or 2) treat for both. I knew I was going to be spending a good chunk of change on ulcer medicine regardless, so I chose to skip the scoping and treat for both.

This was Piper Nov 2019 when she arrived back from her breeding lease:

Dull coat, severely underweight, covered in fungus, with an EXTREMELY unhappy belly

This is Piper as of April 2020:

Bright coat, healthy weight, great skin, ZERO belly issues!

How do I treat for Equine Gastric Ulcers?

Here comes the fun part — treatment! (as if the rest of this process wasn’t fun, right? *eyeroll*)

Firstly, I chose the slightly less expensive route of treatment and ordered my Omeprazole and Sucalfrate through Abler Equine. Other equestrians will say to only use UlcerGuard, but I have seen nothing but positive results in other horses who have used Abler and my vet gave me the go-ahead. So I’m giving it a shot!

Along with these meds, I have Piper on the following preventative measures —

  1. forage, forage, and more forage – she always has access to high quality hay, plus 12+ hours of turnout in a grass pasture
  2. a scoop of soaked alfalfa pellets AM/PM
  3. two pumps of Vitalize Alimend in her grain (use JOHNSON10 for a discount!)
  4. a tube of Vitalize Equine Recovery Gel if we plan on harder work or travel (use JOHNSON10 for a discount!)

Needless to say, my bank account is crying. But I’m willing to do everything and anything to get my girl back to her healthy self. If you have even the slightest suspicion that your horse is acting ulcer-y, please don’t hesitate to act! Call your vet and get on top of it, you’ll thank yourself in the long run. Best of luck, friends!

*Disclaimer* – I am NOT a vet. I’m just giving my experience with ulcers in my mare! Please contact your vet for the right treatment for your horse!