Advances in technology allows us to perform extensive testing in the field that in years past would’ve required a trip to a specialty equine practice. Our equine veterinarians are highly trained and proficient in performing gastroscopy. Gastroscopy allows your 3H vet to pass a video camera up your horse’s nose, through the pharynx, down the esophagus, and into the stomach. Your vet is able to evaluate all structures on the way down looking for any issues or abnormalities. Once in the stomach, the camera moves around to evaluate all surfaces and into the pylorus to search out for ulcers. While in the stomach, your vet can also retrieve a sample of gastric juice to measure the PH. This can help determine if your horse need specific medication to decrease the acid levels and therefore lowering the risk for developing ulcers. Click here to watch a video of a gastroscopy.
Many owners don’t correlate some of the warning signs to gastric ulcers. You should talk to your vet if you notice that your horse is displaying any of the following symptoms:
- Performance decline
- Poor appetite
- Back soreness
- Weight loss
- Recurrent colic
- Attitude changes
- Lackluster coat
Gastroscopy is available both in the 3H clinic and out in the field.
To prepare your horse for a gastroscopy it is imperative that your horse be fasted for a minimum of 8-10 hours and be kept off pastures during this time as well. Water should be pulled 4 hours before procedure. Please call the office should you have any additional questions or concerns.
How To Reduce Gastric Ulcer Risk In Horses
Ulcers are a man made disease, affecting up to 90 percent of racehorses and 60 percent of show horses. Stall confinement alone can lead to the development of ulcers, A horse’s feeding schedule also can be a factor. When horses are fed just twice a day, the stomach is subjected to a prolonged period without feed to neutralize it’s naturally produced acid. In addition, high-grain diets produce volatile fatty acids that can also contribute to the development of ulcers.
Both environmental and physical stress can increase the likelihood of ulcers, as can hauling, training and mixing groups of horses. Strenuous exercise can decrease the emptying of the stomach and the blood flow to the stomach, thus contributing to the problem.
The treatment and prevention of gastric ulcers are directed towards removing predisposing factors, thus decreasing acid production within the horse’s stomach. Follow these tips from the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) to properly treat your horse’s ulcers:
- Allow free-choice access to grass or hay. Horses are designed to be grazers with regular intake of roughage.
- If the horse must be stalled, arrange for the horse to see the horses he socializes with. Consider offering a ball or other object that the horse can enjoy in his stall.
- Feed the horse more frequently to help buffer the acid in the stomach.
- Decrease grains that form volatile fatty acids.
- Medications that decrease acid production are available, but are only necessary in horses showing signs of clinical disease or when the predisposing factors, such as stress, cannot be removed.
The prevention of ulcers is the key. Limiting stressful situations along with integrating frequent feeding or free-choice access to grass or hay is imperative. Neutralizing the production of stomach acid is nature’s best antacid.