At some point in our lives, we’ve all experienced that tell-tale gut ache of indigestion, or even the intense discomfort brought on by heartburn. Now and again even a bit of bad food can leave your stomach cramping, rolling, and leaving you unable to go about your day as usual. Our horses are different, many of them would continue to do their best for us even at times when their tummies were not-quite-right.
The equine digestive system produces stomach acid at all times to help break down food put there by constant and consistent grazing (18-20 hours a day!) Those same acids can break down the lining of their stomachs leading to ulcers. Horses in confinement, whether stable or dry lot, are often unable to graze or eat all day long, leading them to be more prone to stomach ulcer and other related discomfort.
Gastric discomfort is very common in horses. It occurs most frequently in adult horses that perform athletic activities such as racehorses, endurance horses and show horses. Even just everyday exercise increases the gastric acid production in our horse’s GI tract.
What contributes to gastric discomfort? Environmental and Stress factors such as intense exercise, performance, trailering, a hectic training environment and lack of interaction with other horses. Diet and horse management plays a large part as well. Such as: Lack of pasture access, large meals with high starch content, poor forage quality and quantity, prolonged NSAID usage and getting infrequent meals.
Warning Signs: The signs of gastric discomfort can be subtle. Especially in stoic horses. You will want to be on the lookout for the following: poor appetite, dullness in attitude and coat, reluctance to train, weight loss, loose feces, and even low-grade colic.
What you can do: allow your horse to socialize (safely), limit stressful situations, feed horses frequently and discuss possible feed changes with your vet. There are many supplements on the market that can be added to your horse’s daily routine that will act as a buffer and provide your horse with helpful gut flora.
Adeptus Allay is a granular supplement that can be added to your horses feed. It contains natural occurring magnesium carbonate, calcium and licorice which act as a buffer to protect the horses stomach lining from acid. Allay also has prebiotic yeast culture to improve your horse’s digestive function.
Purina Outlast is a new pelleted gastric support supplement. It can be top dressed on a daily ration or as a snack and is included in some of Purina’s latest gastric support feeds: Ultium Gastric Care and Race Ready GT. The proprietary mineral complex combined with calcium carbonate in Purina Outlast drops the pH level of a horse’s stomach acid creating a more favorable gastric environment. (Purina Outlast is now available at Mary’s Tack and Feed.)
GI Equine Mushroom Matrix is an all-natural supplement made from only certified organic mushrooms that includes King Trumpet, Turkey Tail, Reishi and more. ECP provides immune system support and improves horse’s concentration and reduces hyperactivity making the horse more tractable.
Gastro Ease is a paste and supplement powder that provides the horse with acid neutralizers and soothing agents for an inflamed gastric lining. It includes glutamine, yeast cultures, magnesium carbonate and licorice.
Ulcergard contains omeprazole, the only medication approved by the FDA to prevent stomach ulcers. It suppresses acid production in the stomach and comes in a paste. Each tube contains 4 daily doses and it should be used 8-28 days before a stressful event.
Succeed is a gut conditioning program that comes in a 30 and 60-day supply in either granules or paste. Ingredients include oat oil, oat flour, essential amino acids, and yeast cultures to support the normal and healthy functioning of the equine digestive track.
Only a gastric endoscopy or gastroscopy can diagnose stomach ulcers, so if you are worried your horse may be exhibiting the clinical signs be sure to call your veterinarian. The friendly staff at Mary’s Tack and Feed is always happy to chat with you about supporting you and your horses needs whether that includes a new feed or supplementation.