It has been recorded that the prevalence of EGUS is as high as 90% amongst performance horses. EGUS is a blanket term that refers to ulcers occurring in two distinct regions of the stomach, the lower glandular region (EGGD) and the upper squamous region (ESGD). Both conditions can be caused or exasperated by poor diet, poor management, and exercises practices.
Horses are trickle feeders meaning naturally in the wild they would spend 16 hours per day grazing which produces a continual supply of salvia acting as a buffer for the stomach acid. However modern management practices have created an environment where this behaviour has been reduced and instead created an increase in:
- Time stabled
- Amount of high starch concentrates fed
- Time travelling
This has decreased the time spent turned out, amount of forage fed and free access to grazing. These factors all predispose a horse to EGUS. Typical clinical signs of horses suffering with EGUS include:
- Decreased performance
- Weight loss
- Girthy behaviour
- Dull coat
- Temperament changes
- Recurrent colic
- Picky appetite
- Loose droppings
This is not an exclusive list as some horses have different or no clinical signs.
If a horse is suspected to have EGUS the only way to diagnose it, is by the vet performing a gastroscopy. Whereby the ulcers can be identified and graded based on their severity on a scale of 0 (no ulceration) – 4 (extensive ulceration). Once identified the vet will likely prescribe an Omeprazole based product to help heal the ulcers. Repeat scoping will be necessary to access the effectiveness of the treatment.
Once the ulcers have been treated it is vital that preventive measures are put in place to prevent them from returning. Effective prevention includes improving management practices by:
- Increasing forage intake – Ad-Lib were possible (Or for those on a restricted diet no less than 1.5% of bodyweight)
- Increasing turnout time and access to grazing.
- Minimising stress.
- Splitting hard feeds in to 3-5 smaller meals throughout the day.
- Adding chopped fibre to every meal such as chaff.
- Feeding a small, chopped fibre meal 10 minutes before exercise to reduce gastric acid splashing during exercise.
- Providing concentrates high in oil or containing super fibres rather than cereals to meet energy requirements.
- Always provide access to fresh water.
When designing a ration for those prone to EGUS its important to feed a low starch, high fibre diet that is supplemented with oil and super fibres to meet energy requirements. The Bluegrass Extra Pro-Range (Re-Leve Mix, Re-Solve Cube & Re-Lite Cube) has been designed with this in mind with all products in this range being high fibre, low starch and containing prebiotics, probiotics, and marine derived calcium to help prevent horses suffering with EGUS. Other suitable products include Stamm 30, Turmash, Better Beet, Flax Plus and Equi-Jewel. Remember prevention is always better than a cure.
Contact the Bluegrass Horse Feed nutritional helpline to speak with one of our nutritional advisors for more information on feeding and creating a diet for horses with EGUS.Diet Request Sheet.
Horse feed for ulcers, horse feed low in sugar, horse feed high in fibre, horse feed low in strach.