Natural Treatment for Stomach Ulcers in Horses How Do I Know If My Horse Has an Ulcer?
Ulcers are serious -- leading to poor appetite, dullness, attitude changes, decreased performance, poor
body condition, rough hair coat, poor hoof growth, weight loss and colic. By Dr. Richard Shakalis (Senior Research Scientist SBS Equine)
Of the “Top Five Most Common Health Problems with Horses,” gastric ulcers rank second in the world. It is a major health
epidemic in the equine world and may be preventable. Estimates are that 80% of race horses and 56% of non-race horses
have gastric ulcers. Yes, stomach ulcers in horses can be prevented and even reversed naturally.
Most people do not know for sure if their horses have gastric ulcers. They may only suspect the presence of ulcers because
of small noticeable changes in their horse’s condition. For example, adult horses with ulcers can exhibit a combination of
poor appetite, dullness, attitude changes, decreased performance, poor body and hoof condition, rough hair coat, weight
loss and colic. Treating gastric ulcers with acid blockers sometimes helps to relieve the symptoms but may prolong the problem.
Racehorse Trainers’ Secret
During a recent swing last season
through the major horse racing training facilities in Florida, SBS researchers conducted over twenty interviews with many of the top trainers in the country. Although most of the trainers share
health information regularly with their neighbors, their feeding program for the horses under their control was, in most cases, considered a trade secret. After all, it is a competitive industry
and feed is what fuels the animal. However, although most of the trainers surveyed in private admitted to having problems with gastric equine ulcers, those who said that they had few or no
problems at all, did seem to follow a similar feeding pattern.
Horses have evolved to eat many small meals per day, almost on a continual basis. Even though the horse’s stomach is only
8 percent of digestive tract (eight quarts or two gallons), the emptying time of the stomach can be a mere twelve minutes and
the rate of passage through the small intestine one foot per minute. The small volume of the stomach and the rapid passage
of food to the small intestine is the reason that horses can and are designed to eat almost continuously. Gastric pH can drop
lower than 2 soon after a horse stops consuming food and the stomach will continue to produce strong acid even if food is not present.
SBS researchers discovered that the trainers who fed their horses four or five small meals a day had far fewer problems with
gastric ulcers than those that fed their horses only two or three meals a day. The bottom line is that concentrate feeding can
inadvertently contribute to ulcer formation by its influence on increasing serum gastric levels, lowering the horse’s roughage
intake and reducing the amount of time spent eating. Imposed feed deprivation, such as in colic management cases, can also
result in erosion and ulceration of the gastric mucosa as well. In the case of racehorses, they are often not fed immediately
prior to training or racing. This could result in a significant increase in stomach acidity.
It is a well-established fact that horses can become excited when being transported to events in trailers, as well as during
training sessions and competing, further lowering gastric ph. These influences contribute to gastric ulceration. Horses on Bute
or NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) for pain resulting from injury to the joints and feet are at risk of developing
an ulcer. Bute or NSAID disrupt the natural surface barrier within the stomach’s mucosal lining which often result in ulcerations. This is true for smaller companion animals as well - dogs and cats.
Where Ulcers Originate and How to Manage Them Naturally
Most ulcers occur in the fundic portion of the stomach, which has a phospholipid rich, protective epithelial layer. Disruption
of this barrier (mucous, surface-active phospholipids) is initial to the destruction of the stomach’s surface epithelium.
Because most domesticated horses do not feed constantly like nature designed them to, excess acid can ulcerate this
protective layer. Unless the mucous lining is strong enough to withstand the powerful acids produced here, ulcers often develop. Turning off the stomach acid is not the answer.
Various therapeutic protocols are used for the control of equine gastric ulcers. These include products such as UlcerGard
and GastroGard. These treatments will reduce acid in the fundic portion of the stomach and will reduce the occurrence of
ulcers, but there may be unintended negative consequences from these treatments. Stomach acid is an extremely important
component of the initial stage of the digestive process. If in this initial stage of digestion there is not adequate acid present to
break down food, it will pass into the small intestine only partially digested. The nutrients won’t be in a form that can be
absorbed in the small intestine and the horse will not be adequately nourished.
There is a better way to manage gastric ulcers in horses. When the horse is given premium lecithin, granules combined with
apple pectin as a nutritional supplement to his normal diet, the acid in the fundic portion of the stomach immediately breaks it
down into a mix of reactive phospholipids. The phospholipids in lecithin are both hydrophilic and hydrophobic and interact
with the cell membranes of the mucosal epithelium to strengthen the mucosa. Research has shown that this type lecithin not
only treats the symptoms of equine ulcers, it can cure the ulcers as well by making the stomach lining stronger at the cellular
membrane level. The beneficial effects of a diet supplemented with premium lecithin and pectin also enhances the rest of the
digestive tract as well. There has been much research to substantiate this. They also observed horses fed premium lecithin &
apple pectin had reduced levels of excitability and anxiety that was attributed to the healing of gastric ulcers.
Summary Ulcers are serious -- leading to poor appetite,
dullness, attitude changes, decreased performance, poor body condition, rough hair coat, poor hoof growth, weight loss and colic. Treatment options such as reducing stomach acid production is
expensive and can disrupt the normal digestive process by not allowing the food to begin its initial breakdown as nature intended. A less expensive and
more effective treatment is to give horses a nutritional supplement of premium lecithin containing apple pectin. The lecithin strengthens the epithelial lining of
the stomach treating and preventing gastric ulcers and allow for the proper absorption of nutrients in the small intestine. The apple pectin blended in with
the premium lecithin help to buffer the stomach lining and slow the digestive process. Apple pectin is a prebiotic that supports the beneficial microflora in the gastro-intestinal tract.
Lecithin containing apple pectin has proven a valuable natural supplement for horses to treat and prevent gastric ulcers. Lecithin granules can be added quickly to the animal’s diet by sprinkling them
over their daily food ration of horse pellets. The granules cling to the pellets (no waste) and make them more palatable as well. When sourcing lecithin, remember that not all
lecithin is the same. Most premium lecithin supplements containing apple pectins are made in the USA. The best source of
lecithin containing apple pectins is through dealers that specialize in marketing animal feed supplements, not health food stores.
One brand you can trust that contains premium
grade Lecithin and Apple Pectin is Starting Gate Nutritional Granules from SBS EQUINE. It is a natural food additive (lecithin plus apple pectin) that optimizes nutritional absorption for better
health. It contains phosphatidylcholine, a phospholipid that strengthens and guards the epithelial tissue that lines the gastrointestinal tract against stomach acid damage. The granules have
been shown to prevent and even reverse equine gastric ulcers, which exist in the vast majority of performance horses, and those horses who are stalled. It is available through dealers that
promote equine supplements such as HorseWearhouse.Com, HorseHealthUSA.com, and GettyEquineNutrition.biz .
If you are currently using an ulcer medication
(such as UlcerGard or GastroGard) you can use Starting Gate at the same time while weaning off of the ulcer medication. For more articles on gastric equine ulcers and other horse related issues, visit sbsequine.com.