Equine Ulcers are not addressed often enough.
They are so common and not treated frequently, unfortunately.
In the last year and a half, we have radically changed our protocol on ulcers.
Truthfully, it took us ten years to realize how frequently they are an issue in horses and how much pain they cause our equine partners. And importantly, we realized how quickly everything changes once they are treated. . .in a matter of days, really!
Yes, we had horses scoped in the early years, and we never had a case scope and be diagnosed with ulcers.
So we thought. . .some horses just took awhile to “recover” from stress and neglect. No big deal (but it really was).
Some horses were harder keepers, we assumed, and while we ultimately would get the horses were they needed to be condition wise, I realize it was taking longer than made sense, and this become more obvious as we grew to be a very large organization.
Frankly, I wasn’t hearing “ulcers” mentioned by anyone. Not our vet, not through other professionals. . .
Occasionally, I’d hear about them being a frequent issue in Thoroughbreds, and for years, we rarely had OTTBS.
Finally, through a long process and research that shows horses in high stress environments almost always develop ulcers, understanding they do not easily heal on their own, realizing scoping can miss them and that most of our horses tend to come to us from high stress environments, as well as taking on more Thoroughbreds, we decided to routinely treat horses that come in emaciated or from high stress situations. We also become treating horses if they had a change that causes us to notice condition change.
The results have been undeniable and incredible.
Take Midas, for instance. . . a young horse – he came to us already cribbing some, and he has a painful condition that involved a mummified testicle in his abdominal cavity that was different than a basic cryptorchid situation when he was castrated. So he was having some discomfort from this, which resulted in ulcers years ago, he began chewing wood / cribbing, as a result. Once he has the surgery and moved the HOP, the stress of the move likely causes those ulcers to flare. We had ordered the omeprazole, but it was taking awhile to arrive. His condition, though feeding was correct, was dropping lower daily. The photo on the left was Midas within a few days of arrival after surgery. The photo on the right is only 5 days after ulcer treatment began. Nothing changed in his feeding.
This is the most recent example, but time and again, 5 days into a 28 day treatment, we see incredible progress in these horses.
So, what are signs of ulcers:
While not mentioned often in research, my first hand experience has shown me that a tucked up / deflated horse (the belly seems shrunken / pulled in even when weight is ok is very likely an ulcer plagued horse.)
as well as:
Horses that do not eat with gusto or that stop eating and walk away / turn away during hay or grain eating.
Horses that have a change in water consumption.
Horses that begin cribbing / wood chewing
Unusual responses to tacking up / the girth
Poor coat condition
Horses can have ulcers at any age. Some studies suggest as many as 50% to 90% of horses have them at some point.
We treat many horses monthly, and we use Abler (it runs about $100 to treat a single horse, and it works exceptionally well); however, there are various name brand and generic options.
How you feed a horse contributed to ulcers and if they reoccur:
So keeping hay in front of them, offering alfalfa hay, using a hay extender hay net, adding vegetable oil to feed and using a low starch grain all can help lower ulcer occurrence.
Aloe juice over grain is a long time go to after ulcers are treated to help prevent re-occurrence, too.