Gastric Ulcers
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 ulcers…

Intensive exercise or training
Diet – high concentrates, prolonged periods without food
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.


gastro guard

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.