Animal Care bvba - Vets small and large domestic animals

Despite the fact that experts have only recently shown interest, gastric ulcers in horses are very common. According to scientific literature and recently conducted studies 90% of thoroughbreds and trotters suffer from gastric ulcers. This disorder is also very common in foals.

Formulating a correct diagnosis of this disorder is very difficult however, because clear symptoms can seldom be observed. Some signs are very vague as they are not specific to gastric ulcers.


Gastric ulcers in horses, a very common but still "unknown" problem.

What causes gastric ulcers?

Stomach mucosas in horses are naturally protected against the acid contents of the stomach. This protection can be affected by external factors such as environmental and feeding factors or physical efforts. The probability of a gastric ulcer is hereby considerably increased and this, in turn, affects the horse's general condition, behaviour and performance level. In principle all horses can suffer from it, but the problem occurs more often in horses with an intensive training scheme.

Possible causes are for example:

  • inadequate feed (type of feed, frequency of meals)
  • changes in feed (in weaning foals)
  • intensive training
  • administration of some types of medicine
  • transport, a surgical intervention, or other stress factors

What are the external signs?

An adult horse with a gastric ulcer shows no visible external signs. This does not mean it is not in pain however.

Possible symptoms are:

  • loss of weight 
  • decrease in performance
  • no appetite or selective intake of food
  • poor general condition, apathy
  • diarrhoea
  • colic after food intake
  • bruxism (grinding of teeth)
  • back lying

As said, these symptoms are not specific to gastric ulcers and they may very well appear with other disorders. This is what makes formulating a correct diagnosis so difficult. When the horse is in intensive training or temporarily eats in an irregular way and shows another of the aforementioned symptoms in the process, one can suppose that it suffers from a gastric ulcer. This problem can also occur in foals without the appearance of clear external signs. When one of the aforementioned symptoms occurs, it is best to consult a vet.

Prevention and treatment of gastric ulcers

The occurrence of a gastric ulcer can be reduced when we can eliminate the predisposing stress factors: feed of good quality or putting the animal out to pasture. In practice, however, it is not always possible to apply these measures adequately.

Therefore, it may be useful to administer an additional food supplement, in order to keep the stomach mucosas in good shape.

Your vet, your best counsellor

If you suspect your horse suffers from this disorder or if you require additional information, consult with your vet. He can best inform and advise you regarding preventive measures and eventual treatments.

Effective prevention measures and treatments exist.