As a horse owner, it's important to understand the various health issues that can affect your equine family member. One such condition is Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS), which affects a significant number of horses worldwide. This condition can be painful and, not only is it important to know what it is, it's also good to know how you can help.
What is Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS)?
Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome refers to the presence of ulcers in a horse's stomach. The ulcers can develop in the non-glandular (upper) region, glandular (lower) region, or both regions of the stomach.
EGUS is a common problem in horses, with studies suggesting that over 50% of performance horses and up to 90% of racehorses may suffer from the condition at some point in their lives.
Causes of Ulcers in Horses
Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) is a multifactorial condition, with various factors contributing to the development of ulcers in a horse's stomach.
One primary cause of EGUS is an imbalanced diet, particularly a high-grain, low-forage diet, which can lead to increased acidity in the stomach and create a breeding ground for ulcer formation.
Prolonged stress is another significant contributor to EGUS, as horses exposed to stressful situations, such as intense training, frequent traveling, or confinement, are more susceptible to developing ulcers.
The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also increase the risk of ulcers, as these medications can disrupt the stomach's protective lining and impair its ability to heal.
Finally, factors like delayed gastric emptying or reduced saliva production can exacerbate stomach acidity and further contribute to the development of EGUS. Understanding these underlying causes is crucial for implementing preventive measures and effectively managing your horse's gastrointestinal health.
Symptoms of a Horse With Ulcers
Recognizing the symptoms of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) can be challenging, as they can vary among individual horses and may be subtle in some cases. However, being familiar with the common warning signs can help you identify potential issues early on, allowing for timely intervention and treatment.
Symptoms of EGUS include the following:
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Dull coat
- Colic (abdominal pain)
- Teeth grinding
- Changes in behavior, such as irritability or a decrease in performance
An accurate diagnosis of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) is essential for developing an effective treatment plan and ensuring your horse's prompt recovery.
The gold standard for diagnosing EGUS is gastroscopy, a procedure in which a flexible endoscope is passed through the horse's nostril, down the esophagus, and into the stomach. This allows the veterinarian to directly visualize the stomach lining and identify the presence, location, and severity of ulcers or other abnormalities.
Because the symptoms of EGUS can be subtle and vary among individual horses, gastroscopy is a vital diagnostic tool that provides a definitive assessment of the condition. It's important to work closely with your veterinarian to schedule a gastroscopy if you suspect your horse may be suffering from EGUS, as timely diagnosis and intervention can significantly improve the prognosis and minimize the risk of complications.
Conventional Options for Treating Horses With Ulcers
Once EGUS is diagnosed, the treatment plan will depend on the severity and location of the ulcers. Common treatment options include:
- Medications: Acid-suppressing drugs, such as omeprazole, are commonly prescribed to reduce stomach acidity and promote ulcer healing.
- Diet modifications: A high-fiber, low-grain diet can help manage EGUS symptoms. Feeding smaller, more frequent meals and providing constant access to forage can also be beneficial.
- Stress reduction: Implementing stress-reducing strategies, such as providing regular turnout, can aid in ulcer recovery.
- Monitoring NSAID use: Minimizing the use of NSAIDs and working closely with your veterinarian to develop an appropriate pain management plan can help reduce the risk of EGUS recurrence.
And there’s another option that’s completely natural! CBD! Let’s explore that further.
Giving Your Horse a CBD Supplement
CBD is a natural option that can help your horse with ulcers. Although research on CBD and ulcers is still in its early stages, the preliminary findings are encouraging. Research has revealed that CBD is effective in treating the symptoms of stomach ulcers as well as their underlying condition.
The main goal of managing EGUS is to prevent gastric acid secretion.
Fortunately, CBD, like that found in Equine Hemp Pellets with Rocket Animal Health, stimulates receptors in the endocannabinoid system (the system that interacts with cannabis) and reduces gastric acid in the stomach. In addition to the reduction of gastric acid secretion, blood flow increases, allowing the stomach to heal more effectively.
CBD has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, which could help alleviate pain and inflammation associated with EGUS.
Additionally, CBD's potential to reduce anxiety and stress may indirectly support ulcer healing by minimizing stress-related factors that contribute to ulcer development.
Preventing EGUS in Horses
Prevention is key when it comes to EGUS. Some practical steps to reduce the risk of ulcers in your horse include:
- Providing a high-fiber, low-grain diet with constant access to forage to help neutralize stomach acids and decrease the likelihood of ulcer formation
- Offering regular turnout and minimizing stressful situations
- Monitoring and limiting the use of NSAIDs
- Scheduling routine check-ups and gastroscopy exams, particularly for high-risk horses
Returning Your Horse to Good Health
While more research is needed to fully understand the efficacy and safety of CBD in treating EGUS, anecdotal evidence and early studies suggest that it could be a valuable addition to a comprehensive treatment plan for horses suffering from gastric ulcers.
In the meantime, providing a high-quality diet, reducing the use of NSAIDs, and scheduling routine veterinary exams can help your horse’s health.
Collaboration with your veterinarian is essential to developing a tailored treatment plan that addresses the specific needs of your horse and ensures a successful recovery from EGUS.