Horse Stomach Ulcers Facts
The past couple of weeks has been quite a drag on my rodeo schedule. I have repeatedly planned a rodeo trip and then canceled last minute due to a flare-up of my horse’s gastric ulcers.
With that being said, I am happy to say we are finally on the road to recovery and will be hauling in no time.
While going through this ordeal, I had numerous long conversations with my vet and learned quite a lot about ulcers and a horse’s digestive system.
The first thing I learned was how crabby the ulcers had my mare behaving and the second was how expensive it was to treat the problem.
Thankfully, my vet put us on a manageable treatment schedule and also told me how to prevent the ulcers from coming back once cleared up.
How Do I Know if My Horse Has Ulcers?
At the beginning of this ordeal, my horse was coming off of a suspensory injury; so I just assumed her behavior was pain related to the old injury.
Initially, there was head-shaking at the lope; as things progressed she began crow hopping and pulling her head to the ground at a trot.
My first thoughts were all about the old injury so when my vet brought up ulcers I was completely caught off guard.
By the time we got her on the medication, she was noticeably drawn in the flank area, but thankfully had not quit eating or had any issues with colic; which are common horse ulcer symptoms.
One thing that was extremely helpful to me was a video by Dr. Depaolo, concerning diagnosing ulcers.
My horse only showed sensitivity in her girth area but has become less and less sensitive as we have been giving her the medication.
If your horse isn’t showing these symptoms, but you still think your horse may be suffering from ulcers; you can ask your vet about scoping the stomach to search for the culprits.
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What do I Feed a Horse that has Stomach Ulcers?
According to my veterinarian, the ideal thing for a horse with ulcers is to turn them out with plenty of grass, but this was not possible in my situation so he recommended a feed high in fat (8% and above) and low in starch (preferably under 11%).
The idea is that starch raises the PH of the stomach and makes it easier for ulcers to thrive.
Fat is more easily digestible energy for horses that suffer from stomach ulcers. He also said that senior feeds are great in this situation.
Heeding his advice, I switched my mare over to Safe Choice Senior (because we already had it on hand) while using the medication; and then switched over to Purina Ultium after doing quite a bit of nutritional analysis on different feeds.
Purina Ultium seemed like a good fit for my horse because I was worried about feeding anything over 12% protein and still keeping her mind calm and trainable.
Guaranteed Analysis of Ultium is:
There are several other feeds that fit the bill; so just try some out until you find the right fit for your horse.
I knew as my horse began to feel better I would have to move her down from the 14% protein feed; back to a 12% feed; which is why I decided to go with the Ultium.
It is also important to remember that horses are naturally grazing animals; so giving continuous hay in a slow-feeder is also ideal while helping the stomach return to normal.
This is even more important to remember while your horse is in the trailer and staying away from home.
While trailering the stomach acids slosh around and can irritate the top of the stomach if the horse hasn’t eaten recently; this is why it is so important to feed as continuously as possible while on the road.
Performance horses are 60% likely to get ulcers due to the stress of their job.
Horse Stomach Ulcer Treatment
Most horses, when diagnosed with ulcers will need to be put on Omeprazole and or Ranitidine. Once the ulcers are cleared you can continue on a low dose of the medication or switch to aloe vera oil (which was recommended by my vet for long-term use).
Horse stomach ulcers are notoriously pricey to manage, however with the combination of a good feed/fat supplement and aloe vera oil you can save quite a bit of money.
Aloe Vera juice for horses can be found here. Treating horse ulcers is a pain, but thankfully it is a condition that can be easily treated and measures can be taken to prevent the ulcers from coming back.