Gastric Care in a Performance Horse

May 15, 2018

Does your horse show signs of weight loss or decreased body condition due to being a picky eater or having a poor appetite, or does your horse exhibit behavioral changes such as aggression, nervous behaviors, or “girthiness”? If so, your horse may be experiencing abdominal discomfort caused by gastric ulcers, a common medical condition in horses and foals. It is estimated that 50% of foals and 1/3 of adult horses confined in stalls may have mild ulcers. Additionally, approximately 60% of show horses and 90% of racehorses may develop moderate to severe ulcers.
Gastric ulcers are directly correlated to stressful environmental factors such as intense exercise, performance events, trailering, or lack of contact with other horses. Ulcers can also be attributed to diet-related issues such as receiving inadequate forage, being fed meals greater than 6 hours apart, living in a stall without turnout, or eating a diet with a high starch content. When the pH of the stomach drops below normal levels and pressure is increased due to a stressful event, inflammation and erosion develop in the stomach and intestinal lining, creating discomfort.
The horse’s stomach holds around 4 gallons of material and is divided into two parts, the non-glandular portion, and the glandular portion. The non-glandular portion, also known as the esophageal region, is lined with tissue similar to the lining of the esophagus, while the glandular region is lined with glandular tissue and functions to produce enzymes that break down food and protect the stomach from the acidic environment. When the stomach experiences increased acidic activity due to a lack of eating or a stressful event, irritation will occur.
In order to reduce occurrences of gastric ulcers, the pH of gastric acidity needs to be maintained. Limiting stress placed on a horse is a good way to manage ulcer issues. Horse owners should provide a peaceful environment for their horse, provide as much turnout as possible with other horses, keep a regular feeding and exercise schedule, and allow constant access to fresh water. Other management tips include feeding several small, frequent meals throughout the day, along with providing frequent access to quality hay.
Purina offers a gastric health program for horses of all ages designed to support gastric comfort and maintain a proper pH. The new Outlast Gastric Support Supplement contains a blend of ingredients to ensure optimal performance during times of stress. This product contains calcium and magnesium that creates a buffer for the stomach acid and raises pH levels. This is a top-dress supplement and can also be fed as a snack before a stressful event. The Ultium product is also offered with the Gastric Care formula. It contains a full serving of the Outlast supplement in addition to having high-quality protein and fiber sources. Stop by your local Central Valley Ag location or visit to learn more about gastric care and what we can do for your horse!
by Cassidy Cutis
Posted: 5/15/2018 2:29:31 PM by | with 0 comments