Ulcer Incidence: Scoping Events Provide New Info

Veterinarians found new insight on the incidence of gastric ulcers at recent scoping events held at veterinary clinics and university campuses across the country.

"At these events, veterinarians evaluated horses' stomachs using gastroscopy, the only definitive way to determine if a horse has ulcers," said April Knudson,DVM, manager of Veterinary Services at Merial. "I traveled the country to attend many of these events myself, and one thing is for certain--stomach ulcers can occur in horses of all breeds and disciplines."

Throughout the year, 658 horses in 25 states participated in the scoping events. Overall, 60%--397 horses--had some ulceration as identified by gastroscopy.

Horses of varying breeds, ages and previous ulcer histories were found to have stomach ulcers, including:

  • Horses from 1 to 41 years old
  • Breeds from ponies to Percherons
  • Horses kept in box stalls and in pastures
  • Those in training and horses rarely ridden

"These results demonstrate how stomach ulcers can occur in any horse, Knudson said. "Even the best-cared-for horses can suffer from this condition. For horses that compete, like reining horses, stomach ulcers could keep them from performing at their best, too."

There are many triggers for stomach ulcer development, and stress is an important factor. Horses are especially sensitive and may experience stress when exposed to situations you would think of as normal, including: competition, training, travel, lay-up due to sickness or injury, shows or events, limited turnout or grazing, or trailering.


Ulcers can develop quickly, too. One study showed that horses can develop stomach ulcers in as little as five days.

Ulcergard (omeprazole), manufactured by Merial, is the only FDA-approved, proven preventive for stomach ulcers.

"For competitive horse owners, it's important to think about preventing stomach ulcers before an unexpected trip to the veterinarian is required," Knudson noted. "If horses have been exposed to stressful situations and are at risk for stomach ulcers, a veterinarian may be able to provide a presumptive diagnosis without gastroscopy."

If a veterinarian diagnoses stomach ulcers, one tube of Gastrogard (omeprazole) given once per day for 28 days effectively heals or reduces the severity of gastric ulcers. This is the only product FDA-approved to treat and heal stomach ulcers.

"With proven products like these, there is no reason that a horse needs to suffer from stomach ulcers," Knudson said. "Ask your veterinarian if your horse is at risk for stomach ulcers or if there are scoping events in the area."

For more information see Merial.com.  

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