Scoping Events Show Prevalence of Equine Gastric Ulcers

Equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) can occur in horses anywhere. In 2007, Merial (the maker of Ulcergard and Gastrogard) illustrated the prevalence of EGUS by hosting gastroscopy events at two universities on opposite sides of the country.

Between the two events, veterinarians scoped 26 horses for ulcers. Of those horses, only four showed no signs of ulcers. The first event was held in July at the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa. The second event was held in October at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.

"We are proud to partner with these two highly regarded universities to promote a greater understanding of EGUS identification, treatment, and prevention," said Frank Hurtig, DVM, MBA, director of Large Animal Group Enterprise Veterinary Services, Merial. "These events demonstrate that EGUS can occur across regions, breeds, ages, and disciplines."

During each event, veterinarians and horse owners were invited for a free equine gastroscopy followed by a panel discussion on gastric ulcers. Excess acid in the stomach is the main cause of EGUS, and gastroscopy is the only way to diagnose stomach ulcers with certainty. However, there are several clinical signs that can alert horse owners and veterinarians that horse might be experience EGUS. These include altered eating behavior, poor body condition, change in attitude, recurrent colic, sub-optimal performance, diarrhea, or dull hair coat.

At the events, 26 horses of various breeds and ranging from 2 to 20 years of age were scoped. These horses competed in a variety of disciplines, including dressage, eventing, and trail riding. After each exam, the stomachs were graded from Grade 0 (non-ulcerated stomach) to Grade 3 (extensive lesions/deep ulceration). Findings of these events show:

  • Four horses had no ulcers;
  • 11 horses had Grade 1 ulcers;
  • 10 horses had Grade 2 ulcers;
  • One horse had Grade 3 ulcers.

"Ulcers can occur from stress associated with a variety of situations from trailering and training to change in routine," Hurtig noted. "During these scoping events, we talked to owners and veterinarians who were providing excellent care for their horses--yet the horses were still experiencing EGUS. This follows earlier findings that EGUS can develop in horses exposed to stress in as little as five days."

As follow-up, many horses diagnosed with gastric ulcers at the event were prescribed Gastrogard, which is the only FDA-approved treatment for gastric ulcers. Following treatment, it was suggested that during stressful periods owners put their horses on a proactive prevention program using Ulcergard, the only FDA-approved product for the prevention of ulcers.

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