As my horse is an ex racehorse, and has stomach problems (it's also very difficult form him not to lose weigh), I did some research about the thema, and found interesting to share some infos, because for ex racehorses or sporthorses (and I believe also rideschool horses), it is a very common disease, and the symptoms aren't necessary obvious.
But the important thing for me, is that if the symptoms aren't easy to perceive, it's impossible that the horse with gastric ulcer doesn't feel pain and stress because of the pain. So I would precognize to do some prevention treatment and management to every horse who once experienced this painful condition.
(It's a collection of extracts, website URL, scientist reference, so don't try to find a classification of the info. I also translated some info from french.)
Is the stomach ulcer a so frequent affection that we let him(it) hear(understand)?
Until 93 % of racehorses, 60 % of the other sporting horses, 45 % of the horses of stamina and 37 % of the horses of leisure present erosions or stomach ulcers. A foal on two, in the first weeks of its life, is concerned because of its sensibility increased in the diseases and in the stress.
Source: Equiguide /vétérinaire L.Mangold
The horse: an animal subject to ulcers
Numerous studies on the pathology of stomach ulcers were realized since about 10 years, essentially in the United States. We know today that about 90 % of racehorses are reached(affected) by this syndrome, 60 % of sporting horses and spectacle(entertainment), 40 % of the foals and the horses of leisure activities and 80 % of horses developing stomach pains.
According to the Dr Mike Murray, the American specialist in this area, all the regions of the stomach can present ulcers. However the not glandular mucous membrane which hides the first part of the organ is often the most affected.
The factors of training and food are more and more questioned. Indeed, the last studies of Alfred Merritt on the subject demonstrated that the physical activity of the horse facilitated a rise of the acid liquid in the contact of the not glandular mucous membrane, facilitating the appearance of ulcers. The misuse of anti-inflammatory drugs is also a source of stomach ulcers.
Finally the stress remains a suspected factor but only by analogy to man.
Up to 93% of racehorses get stomach ulcers, regardless of age.1,2
Almost 60% of other performance horses have ulcers.1,3
Up to 57% of foals have stomach ulcers, particularly during the first several months of life.4-6
50% of horses with ulcers show no outward signs of gastrointestinal disease.1
In a recent survey using an endoscope to look inside the stomach, nearly all horses in training had ulcers. (Adapted from: Murray MJ, Schusser GF, Pipers FS, Gross SJ. Equine Vet J . 1996;26:368-374.)
1. Murray MJ, Schusser GF, Pipers FS, Gross SJ. Factors associated with gastric lesions in Thoroughbred racehorses. Equine Vet J. 1996;28:368-374.
2. Murray MJ, Grodinsky C, Anderson CW, Radue PF, Schmidt GR. Gastric ulcers in horses: a comparison of endoscopic findings in horses with and without clinical signs. Equine Vet J. 1989;7(suppl):68-72.
3. Hammond CJ, Mason DK, Watkins KL. Gastric ulceration in mature thoroughbred horses. Equine Vet J. 1986;18:284-287.
4. Wilson JH. Gastric and duodenal ulcers in foals: a retrospective study, in Proceedings of the 2nd Equine Colic Research Symposium, 1994, p.126.
5. Murray MJ, et al. Prevalence of gastric lesions in foals without signs of gastric disease: an endoscopic survey. Equine Vet J. 1990;22:6-8.
6. Murray MJ. Endoscopic appearance of gastric lesions in foals: 94 cases (1987-1988). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1989;195(8):1135-1141.
7. Tremblay R. Gastric disorders and gastric function in newborn foals. Equine Research Centre Newsletter. 1991;5:1-2.
8. Murray MJ. Suppression of gastric acidity in horses. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1997;211:37-40.
9. Soll AH. Pathogenesis of peptic ulcer and implications for therapy. N Engl J Med. 1990;322:909-916.
10. Murray MJ. Overview of equine gastroduodenal ulceration, in Proceedings of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, 1997, p. 382-387.
11. Pagan JD. Gastric ulcers in horses: a widespread but manageable disease. World Equine Vet Rev. 1997;2:28-31.
12. Furr MO, Murray MJ. The effects of stress on gastric ulceration and serum T3, T4, reverse T3, and cortisol in neonatal foals. Equine Vet J. 1992;24:37-40.
13. Borrow HA. Duodenal perforations and gastric ulcers in foals. Veterinary Record. 1993;132:297-299.
14. Traub JL, Gallina AM, Grant BD, Reed SM, Gavin PR, Paulsen LM. Phenylbutazone toxicosis in the foal. Am J Vet Res. 1983;44:1410-1418.
15. Murray MJ. Disorders of the stomach. In: Smith BP, ed. Large Animal Internal Medicine. St. Louis: LV Mosby, 1990;648-653.
Site dedicated to the subject
The numbers: Epidemiologic studies of different populations of horses has been very useful in identifying factors that predispose to formation of gastric ulcers. If one compares racehorses to pleasure horses, up to 80% of racehorses in active training may have gastric ulcers while only 35% of pleasure horses will have similar endoscopic findings. Horses that are held off feed or are fed intermittently appear to have a higher prevalence of gastric ulcers. The accumulated research highlights the role of multiple management factors associated with EGUS.
What causes gastric ulcers?
Gastric ulcers are the result of erosion of the stomach lining due to a prolonged exposure to digestive acids the horse's stomach continuously secretes. In the wild, when a horse is grazing for up to 16hr a day, acidity is reduced by the forage and also by bicarbonate in the saliva.
If stabled horses regularly have access to hay and grazing, this natural preventative process continues, whereas if they are fed high-concentrate diets with only limited access to forage, the acidity in the stomach increases. Any period without forage intake, whether due to management practices or illness, leads to increased gastric acidity and risk of ulcers.
Intensive exercise may have a number of adverse effects on gastric physiology, such as reducing blood flow to the stomach, increasing the acid secretion or delaying emptying of the stomach contents into the small intestine.
"Once diagnosed, ulceration can be treated, and a maintenance medication is often a good idea to prevent a recurrence of the illness," says Dr Brazil.
Management changes are an essential part of the treatment for horses with gastric ulceration.
Affected horses need:
• plenty of time at pasture
• continuous access to forage, if stabled
• minimal stress
• a reduced level of training
• reduced levels of grain and concentrates in the diet
Unfortunately, these recommendations are hard to achieve for racehorses and other elite equine athletes, so medication is needed to help heal the ulcers and prevent recurrence. The primary principle is to reduce gastric acidity, either by changing management or medical treatment.
Why are performance horses more susceptible to stomach ulcers than non-performance horses?
Like human ulcers, stomach acid appears to be the main cause of equine ulcers. Excess acid can "eat" through the protective lining and damage the stomach. The high prevalence of ulcers seen in performance horses results from many factors including the way the horses are fed and managed. Intensity of training also may contribute to ulcer formation, but the exact cause remains undetermined. Helicobacter pylori, bacteria that are a factor in the development of human ulcers, have not been isolated from horse stomachs and are currently not considered to be a cause of ulcers in horses. In addition, grains and pelleted concentrates can increase the production of gastrin, a hormone that stimulates acid production. Therefore, horses that are fed high grain diets are more likely to have higher gastric acidity than horses offered free choice forage without grain.
Stress is suspected of contributing to EGUS. Foals with musculoskeletal or other clinical problems are prone to gastric ulcers. Factors such as shock and severe injuries may lead to ulcers developing in horses. Any horse with an existing illness is at risk of developing EGUS.
Psychological stresses have not been extensively studied in horses. Factors such as hospitalization, shipping and relocation can be stressful to the horse and may contribute to gastric ulceration.
Exercise also appears to be a contributor to EGUS. "Recent research has shown a direct association between exercise, and the intensity of training and the development and maintenance of gastric ulcers in horses," said Dr. Michael Murray, associate professor and Adelaide C. Riggs Chair in Equine Medicine at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, who has been researching gastric ulcers for 12 years.
COLLEGE STATION – A change in diet can be good for what ails you – even if you are a horse.
Research from Texas A&M University showed that feeding alfalfa to horses that have the potential to be high performers either prevented or was therapeutic in treating stomach ulcers.
“Something in alfalfa hay tends to buffer acid production,” said Dr. Pete Gibbs, Extension horse specialist.
In the research, 24 quarter horses from 12-16 months old were separated into two treatment groups. One group was fed Bermuda grass hay and the other fed alfalfa hay to meet the daily roughage needs. The yearlings received forced exercise during the study.
The horses were examined internally with an endoscope at the beginning and end of two 28-day trials.
It’s commonly thought that horses turned out on pastures are better off than those that are confined. However, if grass hay is the only hay they are fed, horses can still get gastric ulcers, he said.
In this study, ulcer scores increased when alfalfa was removed from the horses’ diets, and they were turned out on pasture. Under the ulcer-scoring system, 0 signified no ulcers, with severity increasing to level 4.
also see this website
Extensive studies have been done in many disciplines but not endurance. Several investigators have looked at endurance horses but not in large numbers. Endurance horses do not gather in large numbers except at rides which is a poor place to perform endoscopy due to the necessity to fast and the advantages of sedation.
In the spring of 2003, the Pride Project, a private research entity, with the help of some dedicated AERC members, conducted a study of the incidence of equine gastric ulcer syndrome in endurance horses. As of April 30, 2003, 140 active endurance horses were "scoped" at 15 clinics in eight states and 50% of them had ulcers. Lack of time and finances have prevented any further studies.
Studies published recently by Dr. Al Merritt at the University of Florida demonstrated that when a horse exercises at a trot or gallop, the unprotected part of the stomach is exposed to acid contents, causing ulcer formation.
Signs and symptoms of ulcers
There are many clinical signs and symptoms associated with EGUS; however, it is important to note that many horses with stomach ulcers do not exhibit any obvious signs. Because the prevalence of stomach ulcers in horses has only been recently understood, ulcer symptoms can go unrecognized by trainers, owners and veterinarians. What complicates the issue is that some horses with severe ulcers may not show any outward signs of illness, while others suffering from mild ulcers may behave very abnormally.
What causes ulcer formation?
There are several factors that predispose a horse to EGUS. A grain-heavy diet and infrequent grazing or reduced hay intake can lead to stomach ulcers within hours to days. Performance horses often go without feed several hours of each day during training, permitting acid build-up within the stomach and causing damage to the stomach lining.
Prolonged stabling or time spent in stalls, coupled with limited turn-out, can also contribute to ulcers. Extended periods of inactivity or strict confinement results in delayed emptying of stomach contents, conditions that are favorable to ulcer development.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, intense exercise or rigorous training actually increases acid production in the horse's stomach and reduces blood flow to the stomach. Consequently, strenuous exercise can be just as likely to result in stomach ulcers as inactivity.
Other factors such as shipping, frequent competition, unfamiliar surroundings and the use of analgesic anti-inflammatories, such as phenylbutazone and flunixin meglumine, have also been shown to contribute to equine stomach ulcers.
dedicated for the food factor :
Many of the industrially produced feed supplements, which are part of the feeding regime, do promote different type of allergies.
The industrially produced pellets may often contain; dried whey, heat processed grain, Fat-Oil, animal fat, rice bran, corn etc. It will also contain some type of preservative. Any one of these ingredients may promote an allergic reaction. The first reaction will start in the stomach’s protective coating.
Due to this fact, the release of histamine in the stomach will increase and create a reaction of the immune defense system
.The horse will develop hypersensitivity to certain substances, and this will activate a special type of white blood cells; the IgA (Immunoglobulin A). IgA signals to the histamine that dangerous substances are present in the stomach, the histamine secretion increases and the glands are stimulated to produce more gastric acid. The horse, which is extremely sensitive to histamine, will then have a local allergic reaction of the intestinal tract.
There are many clinical indications and symptoms which can be associated with equine gastric ulcers. It is important to realize that some horses, with inflamed mucosal epithelium, do not show any specific symptoms at the beginning of the onset. An observant trainer/owner will notice a change in the condition of the horse such as, lethargy and apparent poor appetite
Significant increases in the production of saliva or dry mouth, and/or swollen glands under the jaw bone are also symptoms of a problematic stomach at different stages.
The stomach can also cause an imbalance of the thyroid gland function. Stomach and thyroid problems will often have a common cause that can arise from improper feeds, which contains allergy inducing substances.
The thyroid’s hormones will indirectly affect the function of the adrenal glands and their effect on the calcium/sodium balance
Do not feed the horse with pellets, heated or boiled feeds, oil, barley, rice or corn; these types of feeds will increase the production of gastric acid.
Don’t forget the importance of water
Water should be looked upon as feed. A horse may drink up to 10 gallons of water every day and likes to “gulp” large amounts when it is drinking.
Inflamed mucosal epithelium and stomach ulcers are very common among horses that are subjected to constant training and competition. The information attained from many scientific studies indicates that 90% of all competing horses suffer from some type of stomach problem.
The reason for these conditions is known to be related to the feeding practices, physical training, mental and physical stress, injuries and/or other illnesses that will cause the horse discomfort.
The horse is transported to and from races, moved to different barns and is subjected to many environmental changes.