STANDFIRST: Equine Gastric Ulcer syndrome (EGUS) has been an increasing concern to horse owners, affecting any age, breed or workload. Ashley Neely BSc SQP, of Bluegrass Horse Feeds, recommends which feed to use for EGUS.
Racehorses in training and performance horses have higher risk of developing EGUS with some reports showing 90 per cent of racehorses and up to 60 per cent of performance horses suffering from EGUS.
However, increased incidence of EGUS has been reported within leisure horses within recent years and the team at Bluegrass Horse Feeds has seen an increase in leisure owners asking for our advice on management practices.
EGUS can be a result from prolonged exposure of gastric juices to the stomach lining, known as the gastric mucosa which results in ulceration and bleeding. The stomach can be divided into two regions - the non- glandular dorsal region of the stomach lined in squamous epithelium. This area is the most commonly affected by ulceration. The second region is known as the glandular ventral region lined in glandular epithelium - ulceration within this region is unlikely to be diet related and often a side effect of medication such as non-steroid anti-inflammatory treatment.
Some signs to look out for include colic, diarrhoea, poor appetite, dull coats, decreased performance or behavioural changes such as irritability when grooming or tacking up. It is important to discuss with your vet if you suspect EGUS for appropriate treatment and diagnosis.
Workload, routines and management practices impact highly on the susceptibility of EGUS. Horses under higher stress levels (including weaning), lower fibre and higher starch diets, prolonged periods without forage, intensive exercise, transport, ill health and medication treatments are classified as in higher risk of developing EGUS.
High incidence of EGUS in performance and racehorses is often a direct result of their feeding and management practices. Prolonged periods of fasting leads to excessive gastric acid output without adequate saliva production. A study showed horses fed a hay diet had a reported 3.1 pH compared to fasted horses reporting 1.5 pH levels within the gastric acid of the stomach.
By maximising the amount of time spent chewing, we can increase the amount of saliva being produced. Saliva is a natural buffer of the stomach against these gastric acid “splashes”, therefore, an increase in saliva production reduces the risk of EGUS developing. Higher fibre and lower starch diet, management strategies to reduce stress and increased turn out time are key prevention strategies.
Treatment of EGUS involves either inhibiting gastric acid secretion or neutralizing the acid production. Turning the horse out to pasture to increase saliva production and therefore increase the natural buffering technique is an ideal method, however veterinary advice is recommended if EGUS is suspected as medication may be required. Changes in feeding and management practises are to be implemented to manage those horses suffering from EGUS.
Bluegrass Horse Feeds Re-Leve and Re-Solve from the Bluegrass specialist range, have been specifically formulated to aid gastrointestinal health and manage those horses suffering from EGUS. The high fibre, high oil and low starch levels increase gastric health and aid repair, whilst providing slow release energy sources for their workload.
For Further information on these products visit www.bluegrasshorsefeed.com