How to Feed Horses With Gastric Ulcers

Tips include ensuring constant forage access, providing pasture turnout, and limiting concentrate intake, among others.

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How to Feed Horses With Gastric Ulcers
Horses evolved eating small meals throughout the day, so allowing a horse access to hay or forage on a continual basis ensures the stomach is not empty for long periods. | Photo: Thinkstock

Equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) affects more than 80% of Thoroughbred racehorses and 30-50% of all foals and weanlings. Incidence is similarly high in performance horses.

Because diet plays such an important role in managing ulcers, Ingrid Vervuert, DVM, described feeding strategies for affected horses at the 2016 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 3-7 in Orlando, Florida. Vervuert is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Animal Nutrition, Nutrition Diseases and Dietetics and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Leipzig, in Germany, where she focuses her research on equine nutrition and dietetics.

Risk Factors

Based on previous research, we know that horses without access to any type of feed for more than eight hours are at risk for developing ulcers. Other significant risk factors include forage intake of less than 1% of body weight, high starch intake, limited pasture access, stall confinement, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug administration, strenuous exercise, and transport stress, said Vervuert

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Written by:

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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