Gastric Ulcers in Horses: 30 Years of Research

In the past 30 years, researchers have made great strides in understanding gastric ulcers. Those findings and ones yet to be made can help improve horse health and welfare now and into the future.
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gastric ulcers in horses
Videoendoscopic view of the pyloric glandular region of a stomach showing lesions of equine glandular gastric disease (EGGD). | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Al Merritt

Today, we know horses are prone to developing gastric (or stomach) ulcers. We know an estimated 50-90% of horses suffer from gastric ulcers and that performance and racehorses are some of the most susceptible. We even know what treatment and management options can help ulcers heal and reduce their changes of returning.

But concern about gastric ulcers weren’t always common. In fact, not long ago, relatively speaking, veterinarians published some of the first research on these stomach lesions. Al Merritt, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, a professor emeritus at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, in Gainesville, described what researchers have learned about equine gastric ulcers in the past three decades at the 2018 Kentucky Equine Research Conference, held Oct. 29-30 in Lexington, Kentucky.

Gastric Anatomy and Physiology

Merritt began with a brief review of the equine stomach—an important part of fully understanding gastric ulcers

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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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