Gastric Ulcers

Equine Stomach Ulcers 

A problem that is more common than most think

Equine stomach ulcers (also called gastric ulcers and often referred to by the acronym EGUS, or Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome) are a common problem in our domestic equine population. EGUS is especially common in those horses in regular work, training, or those without access to healthy pasture. Ulcers cause a variety of symptoms and we have found that each horse has an individual way of dealing with the discomfort ulcers produce.

Some of the more common symptoms are:

  • dull/rough hair coat
  • sensitivity while tacking or grooming
  • (especially when applying a girth/cinch)
  • lack of performance/ change in performance
  • negative changes in behavior
  • poor/decreased appetite, especially for grain
  • and/or preference for hay over grain
  • decreased water intake
  • prolonged time to consume grain
  • tucked up abdominal appearance, i.e. “wasp waisted”
  • stretching out to urinate without urinating, especially
  • at feed time
  • “cat stretches”, especially at feed time
  • weight loss
  • recurrent colic

Gastroscopy is an important tool that allows us to determine what is going on in the horse’s stomach. We also get a chance to view the esophagus and larynx while we are performing the procedure. Many think the only problem we are looking for are ulcers, however we are seeing an increased number of patients with issues like bot infestations, and secondary complications like delayed gastric emptying which can lead to formation of gastric bezoars (we've seen accumulations of hay, hair, bedding, sand and other foreign materials), or in the worst situations gastric impaction can occur. It may not be as simple as treating your horse with Omeprazole for a few weeks, as most patients require significant changes in management or more varied and aggressive therapies to rectify these secondary problems and prevent recurrence. They may need additional medications, diet changes or more extensive medical care to truly treat the condition. Often times clients might suspect ulcers and just medicate instead of actually looking to see what is happening in the stomach, however as we just discussed, ulcers may only be a part of the total picture. If gastroscopy doesn't reveal ulcers then we can begin to discuss what other problems might produce the patient's symptoms. It was previously thought that only show horses and those stalled in a high stress environment get ulcers, but we have found that isn't at all the case. We see patients from the retired pasture companion to the lackadaisical miniature horse silently struggling with this condition. Performing gastroscopy is a safe, simple and effective way for us to evaluate the overall health of the equine stomach. If you're interested to see the process, we will be posting a video of a recent scope on our website for you to preview: There is also a step by step procedural hand out that we can email you if you would like more details.


Please email or contact our office by phone for more information or to schedule an appointment.