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What You Need To Know About Gastric Ulcers

Horses eating Alfalfa

According to research, there’s a 90% chance that right now, your horse has a gastric ulcer. In fact, digestive ulcers might be the most overlooked complication in horse health. Often, the clinical signs are difficult to notice but can have painful and damaging effects on your horse. We’ll show you how these ulcers are formed and what you can do to prevent them.

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How Are Gastric Ulcers Formed?

For over 55 million years, horses and their ancestors have lived in a specific manner. They focused on constantly moving while eating small amounts of roughage throughout the day. It’s only within the last couple centuries that we’ve thrown this 55-million-year-old routine on its head. With that in mind, it should be unsurprising that horses’ digestive systems have struggled to adapt to their new lifestyle.

Ulcers happen when gastric acid or an enzyme called pepsin irritates the stomach lining of your horse. Research has found that the cause of gastric ulcers is based on a variety of factors that largely deal with diet and feed management. For instance, feeding high levels of concentrates, feed deprivation and the type of feed used can all play a role in preventing or causing ulcers. The stress of training or disease, mechanics of training (splashing of acid in stomach while exercising) as well as medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, can all influence the onset and severity of gastric ulcers.

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How Can I Prevent Ulcers In My Horse?

More and more research is being done that looks at the nutritional aspects of gastric ulcers. A study analyzing feed types found that young horses on high grain diets had increased risk of ulcers compared to horses on hay diets. In fact, after 8 weeks, the “high grain” horses’ ulcer scores (a scored based on the amount and severity of ulcers) were 3 times as high. Tests like this and others all suggest that a high roughage diet promotes better digestive health than a high grain diet.

Forage should be the basis of any horse’s diet. Grain concentrates and supplements should be fed to compliment forage. If you’re providing your horse with high quality forage, you’ll need much less grain concentrate. For the most part, a balanced vitamin and mineral supplement should do. Even adding high quality forage to lower quality hay can increase the overall consistency and nutritional profile of your horse’s feed. By doing this, you’ll need less grains to meet your horse’s nutritional requirements which will decrease their risk of developing gastric ulcers.

Researchers have also found that alfalfa or mix-alfalfa forage can actually help buffer a horse’s stomach and gastric content, reduce gastric acidity and decrease ulcer severity in horses. Recent breakthroughs have also shown that pasture turnout can help reduce stress and prevent gastric ulcers.

This research reflects what we’ve always believed here at Standlee: High quality forage is the best way to keep your horse happy and healthy. To help reduce the chance of gastric ulcers in your four-legged friends, we offer only the highest quality alfalfa feed. To learn more about Standlee’s high quality Premium Western Forage, check out the link below!

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