By Kate Sutton BVM&S MRCVS

Gastric ulcers are a common problem in today’s horse population. Studies have shown that gastric ulcers occur in up to 37% of non-performance horses, 63% of performance horses and in 93% of racehorses in training.

Not only adults are affected

Around 50% of foals develop gastric ulcers, especially during the first 6 months of life. Unlike in adults, gastric ulcers in foals can be fatal.

Clinical Signs are often vague

  • Dull coat
  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Behavioural changes or depression
  • Poor performance
  • Mild or recurrent colic
  • Teeth grinding
  • In foals: Intermittent nursing, dorsal recumbency (lying on their backs), diarrhoea (or a history of diarrhoea), excessive salivation, rough hair coat.Gastric ulcers tend to be under-diagnosed as many horses show no outward clinical signs.


Risk factors for the development of gastric ulcer

  • Intensive exercise or training
  • Diet – high concentrates, prolonged periods without food
  • Transportation
  • Stable confinement
  • Psychological stress
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications at high doses.

Gastric ulcers can be of varying severity

  • Inflamed but intact epithelium
  • Superficial erosions or scarring
  • Discreet or widespread erosions or ulcers
  • Bleeding erosions or ulcers
  • Deep ulcers with necrotic centres
  • Perforation – usually fatal (usually only in foals).


gastro scoring

A presumptive diagnosis can be made based on clinical signs. However, the only way to make a definitive diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan is with a 3-meter video endoscope. We now have this facility available at the clinic.


GastroGardä (Omeprazole) – has been shown to significantly improve ulcers in 99% of horses treated, often with noticeable results in just a few days.

Prevention and Management Recommendations

  • GastroGardä used at quarter the normal dose prevents gastric ulcers in many horses.
  • Antacids such as U-Gardä and Neigh-loxä can possibly help prevent ulcers.
  • Corn oil added to feed.
  • As much turnout as possible.
  • Ad-lib hay / haylage.

If you would like any further information on Gastric Ulcers please contact us.

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