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Horse Care: Gastric Ulcers and What to Look For

Horse Gastric UlcersAs a horse owner, it’s only natural that you want to make sure your prized animals are at the peak of health. Gastric ulcers are a common occurrence in domestic horses and are usually caused by increases in gastric acid production and receiving less blood to the GI tract of the horses’ stomach. Taking preventative measures and getting treatment is a necessary part of responsible horse care and maintenance.

When Are Gastric Ulcers a Threat?

Gastric ulcers can be a threat to horses of any age, although the symptoms occur most often in horses that are strenuously active. Racehorses, endurance runners, and show horses, in particular, are susceptible to this condition, although the threat of this condition is very real for any kind of horse that performs in a high-stress environment.

How Can a Horse Get Gastric Ulcers?

Where humans mainly get ulcers from stress-related illness or disorders, horses have many more chances at getting this painful gastrointestinal condition. Though stress can play a factor in the development of gastric ulcers, such as with horses that are involved in competitions or showings, it isn’t the only factor by far.

The risks for horse ulcers include such common scenarios as having your horse confined to a stall or trailer for a prolonged length of time or the use of corticosteroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Ulcers can also be caused because of other gastrointestinal tract issues.

Most of the common risk factors are related to your horses’ diet, however. This is because a horse’s stomach is smaller than most other animals, making it require less food but a more consistent feeding schedule such as when a horse is grazing. Because of the size of a horse’s stomach, any kind of prolonged fasting, even just for the period of a day, can result in the kind of gastrointestinal damage that causes horse ulcers to form. That’s why allowing a horse to eat in a scattered or isolated feeding schedule instead of allowing the horse to graze consistently is a big risk for developing ulcers.

But, it’s not just how they eat, but what they eat, as well. Horse ulcers can form due to a regimen of processed food, unless you add plenty of whole grains to a horses’ diet. By eating whole grains, a horses’ gastric acid is reduced due to digestion, therefore lowering their chances of getting an ulcer. A diet of purely processed foods or whole grains, however, can increase gastric acid production and the chance of ulcer development.

How Can You Tell?

Usually, you notice that something seems off or that your horse isn’t acting the same when something’s wrong. If you can’t quite put a finger on what’s bothering you though, there are some obvious ways that you can use to tell if your horse has an ulcer and requires special treatment or care. The most common warning signs of gastrointestinal discomfort that are associated with horse ulcer development are these:

  • Abnormal teeth grinding or belching noise
  • Eating unusually slowly
  • Picky appetite and walking away from meals


Other symptoms such as weight loss, poor performance or quality of coat, irritability, and being sensitive to touch on their sternum or lower belly can also be sign that your horse could have developed a gastric ulcer.

Aside From Symptom Diagnosis, How To Be Sure?

Although most horses can be diagnosed from symptoms alone, it’s helpful to be sure when it comes to your animals’ health. Your veterinarian can recommend various tests such as an endoscopic exam of your horse’s stomach or a sucrose-absorption test to make sure that the problem is actually an ulcer and not some other disease or condition that require different horse treatments.

What Can I Do?

Honestly, gastric ulcers usually resolve themselves on their own as long as they aren’t too severe. But, if your horses’ symptoms don’t improve or seem to be worsening, it’s time to think about getting treatment for the horse ulcers. Medications can come in a variety of forms and can be frustrating when trying which works for your horse. The good news is…Harmonize Your Horse was developed to combat that issue for your horse and is specifically designed to improve horse’s digestive system. So, don’t wait until your horse’s feeling gets worst. Consider giving your horse Harmonize pelleted supplements and let us know the result! You can also check out our article on common questions about gastric ulcers.

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