Sorting out GI-Support Supplements

Several ingredients claim to help equine gastric ulcers, but only a few have research behind them.
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Look through any equine supply catalog or go into any tack or feed shop, and you’ll likely encounter pages and shelves full of supplements. Supplements aimed at improving gastrointestinal (GI) health are especially popular, given that research has shown most performance horses suffer from gastric ulcers.

Melyni Worth, PhD, PAS, of Foxden Equine, a nutritional supplement company, spoke about common ingredients in equine supplements aimed at improving GI health at the 15th Annual Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Conference in Hunt Valley, Maryland, on April 6, 2017.

“Since the horse has been domesticated, GI disruptions have been an issue,” Worth said. “Very often, these issues are handled best by changing management.”

Ingredients Targeting Ulcers

In humans, research has shown hydrogen ion inhibitors, such as the drug omeprazole, can contribute to osteoporosis. Long-term studies haven’t been done in horses. Nonetheless, other acid buffers, although not proven to cure ulcers, are common in equine supplements aimed at managing the condition. These include calcium, magnesium, and aluminum salts. Sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda, is also a natural acid buffer, but too much can disturb normal electrolyte balance, Worth said

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Nettie Liburt, MS, PhD, PAS, is an equine nutritionist based on Long Island, New York. She is a graduate of Rutgers University, where she studied equine exercise physiology and nutrition. Liburt is a member of the Equine Science Society.

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