Gastric Ulcer Prevalence in Feral, Domestic Horses Compared

Ulcers were more prevalent in domestic horses than feral ones, but the latter group wasn’t immune to these lesions.
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Researchers have been telling us that we sometimes create health problems, such as gastric ulcers, in horses because we don’t manage them as nature intended—eating small quantities of grass almost continuously throughout the day. But are wild and feral horses really ulcer-free? And how do those rates compare to domestic horses?

At the 2015 American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum, held June 4-6 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Ben Sykes, BSc, BVMS, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, ECEIM, MBA, of BW Sykes Consultancy in Upper Orara, New South Wales, Australia, presented those study results in a poster presentation.

A horse’s stomach consists of two sections: the acid-producing glandular region (the bottom half) and the smooth squamous region that has a lining similar to the esophagus (the top half). While traditionally ulcers were thought to occur most commonly in the squamous region, it is becoming increasingly apparent that ulcers can affect the glandular region, as well.

“Equine squamous gastric disease (ESGD) has been reported in 50% to 100% of performance horses in various studies, while the prevalence of equine glandular gastric disease (EGGD) has been reported as being between 30% to 65% in a number of different horse types,” Sykes explained. “But, to date, littler information has been published on the prevalence of either in feral horses

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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