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Vet's Corner: Stomach Ulcers: Your horse could be at risk


By April Covington, DVM, Manager, Veterinary Professional Services, Merial
April Covington
April Covington, DVM, Manager,
Veterinary Professional Services, Merial

Horses are especially sensitive and may experience stress when exposed to situations you would think of as normal, such as: competition, training, travel, lay-up due to sickness or injury, limited turnout or grazing.

That everyday stress can lead to Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS), which is prevalent across all breeds, disciplines and ages. Studies have shown that more than 90 percent of racehorses and 60 percent of nonracing competitive horses suffer from EGUS.

Ulcers can develop quickly, too. One study showed that horses can develop stomach ulcers in as little as five days.

What causes EGUS?

Excess acid in the stomach is the main cause of EGUS. This acid can eat through the stomach's protective lining and lead to EGUS. A horse's stomach secretes acid all the time and can produce up to 16 gallons of acidic fluid every day. In a natural grazing situation, the intake of roughage causes production of saliva that acts as a buffer.

In reality, however, horses may not be grazing constantly. With the stresses of a busy horse lifestyle, eating behaviors can change, allowing excess acid to build up and cause painful stomach ulcers.

Eliminating all stress from your horse's life can be difficult. To help avoid stomach ulcers, consider putting your horse on a preventive during times of stress. ULCERGARD® (omeprazole) is the only product approved by the FDA for the prevention of EGUS.

Next time you anticipate a stressful situation for your horse, remember EGUS.

April Covington, DVM, is a Veterinary Services equine specialist with Merial.

ULCERGARD® is a registered trademark of Merial, Inc.

Grade 2 Ulcer
Grade 2: Moderate ulcers, large lesions
Grade 3 Ulcer
Grade 3: Extensive lesions with deep ulceration and bleeding

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