EGUS: Ulcers in Horses

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We do not know exactly how many horses and ponies have ulcers or suffer from EGUS. Some reports state about 25-50% of foals and 60 – 90% in performance horses. It is likely, that a large proportion of leisure horses also suffer from the condition without it ever being diagnosed.

Also known as Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS), a gastric ulcer is a sore in the stomach lining that occurs when the lining has been damaged by stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Ulcers in horses can also be seen in the lower oesophagus and in the first portion of the small intestine (also known as the entrance to the duodenum).

The risk factors for horses to develop this syndrome include involvement in performance disciplines; high-concentrate (grain) diets, intermittent feeding, exercising without being fed first, environmental stress, stress due to travel or social interaction and illness.

What are the signs of EGUS?

The signs of EGUS can be variable between horses depending on the type of ulcer, but may include; changes in appetite, slowed eating, poor performance and behavioural changes (for example resistance to girthing). You may also see mild weight loss and poor body condition, which is why it is important to be familiar with your own horse’s weight and body condition. Although many of these symptoms may be present, the most reliable way to find out if your horse has ulcers or lesions is to scope them.

The impact of the daily routine on EGUS

Interestingly, some research has suggested that horses on permanent pasture have a much lower incidence of EGUS, which can help to understand how they occur.

Under normal feeding behaviour, a horse will nip off short lengths of the grass tips and this is relatively easy to chew, producing saliva. The role of chewing is to prepare the digestive system and help neutralise the stomach acid. Between the forage and saliva, they maintain the stomach at a reasonable acidity level. At these levels the acid-producing bacteria which can cause the ulcers are suppressed. Even when the horse is stressed (e.g. being hunted, fighting during mating) these factors are short-lived and relatively infrequent.

In the case of the domesticated horse several factors are now introduced that disrupt normal function, such as stress, exercise and feeding routines.

hOW TO SUPPORT egus WITH AN APPROPRIATE DIET

There are some key reasons why Fibre-Beet has been found to be able to support a dietary approach to gastric ulcers. Management of the horse’s diet is key to reducing the gastric acidity in the stomach and maintaining a pH level of 4 or above. Ulcers occur due to the erosive effects of extremely low pH fluid. Forage is high in protein and calcium and acts as a dietary buffer, increasing pH in the stomach and preventing ulcer formation. It is important that your horse has access to high quality forage consistently throughout the day and that they always have access to fresh water.

When it comes to hard feeds, it is important to notice how much starch is present. Due to its low starch content (3%) as well as its high level of easily digested soluble fibre for slow energy release, Fibre-Beet is a great option for horses with ulcers.

Fibre-Beet is a conditioning feed in the form of a soaked mash, with a carefully formulated combination of Speedi-Beet and alfalfa supplemented with biotin, sodium and calcium. It can be fed in larger quantities than Speedi-Beet and so is a superb conditioning feed and is ideal for those needing to control starch intake. A 20kg bag of Fibre-Beet costs £19.09 – £20.09 and can be fed at up to 1kg/100kg body weight of your horse.

You can find out more about Fibre-Beet for horses including feeding guidelines, ingredients, FAQ’s and more reviews on our website www.britishhorsefeeds.com or speak to one of our dedicated experts on 01765 680300