Tips to Reduce Ulcer Risk and Improve Healing

It’s been well-documented that over 90% of race horses and over 60% of performance horses (hunter/jumpers, dressage, endurance and western) have ulcers. However, a new study shows that even small changes in the routine of a recreational horse can cau
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It’s been well-documented that over 90% of race horses and over 60% of performance horses (hunter/jumpers, dressage, endurance and western) have ulcers. However, a new study shows that even small changes in the routine of a recreational horse can cause ulcers in as little as five days. Fortunately, there are some steps horse owners can take to prevent and heal ulcers.

First, know the signs of ulcers in horses. These include poor performance (often mistaken for musculoskeletal or back pain), behavioral issues (poor attitude, resistance, girthiness), colic and loss of weight or condition.

Next, manage your horse to prevent ulcers. In the ideal world, horses would be kept on pasture 24/7. Since this isn’t possible for everyone, the next best thing is to turn your horse out as much as you can and feed him frequent small hay meals. When you take your horse somewhere, try to keep his schedule and environment as close to what it is at home as possible. Make sure you give your horse some "down time" if his training and competition schedule is especially grueling.

Finally, there is a wide variety of products on the market designed to support a healthy digestive tract and even provide symptomatic relief to horses with ulcers. However, Gastrogard is the first and only FDA-approved medication proven to heal ulcers, even while horses continue to train

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Written by:

Lydia Gray, DVM, is Medical Director and Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak Equine. She was previously the executive director of the Hooved Animal Humane Society in Woodstock, IL, and an Owner Education Director for the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

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