Your horse could have a stomach ulcers.
Gastroscopy describes a complete examination of the two lining tissues of the horses stomach using a 3.5m flexible video-endoscope. It is performed under light sedation and images are captured at specific points around the stomach and are graded and defined by type.
Equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) is something we see more and more frequently. If your horse is under performing, has behavioural changes, has a poor appetite, poor coat condition or pain on girthing then they may be suffering from gastric ulcers. Using gastroscopy to visualise the horse's stomach, we are able to see whether ulcers are present or not and also which type. Once diagnosed, we can offer the most appropriate treatment.
There are two main forms of gastric ulcer:
- Primary squamous ulceration, which occurs in the white top half of the stomach as a result of increased acid exposure. This condition is more common in racehorses (up to 90%), and typically causes slowed eating, variable appetite, weight loss and poor performance. It is less common in sport and leisure horses (30%). Known risk factors are daytime forage deprivation, high concentrate diets, prolonged exercise on an empty stomach and recurrent transport.
- Primary glandular disease, which occurs in the bottom half of the stomach and is believed to reflect a reduced ability of this tissue to protect itself from the acid that is normally there. Glandular disease is more common in sport and leisure horses (50-60%) than racehorses (<30%). Common clinical signs are behavioural change, development of girthing pain and poor performance. The cause of this type of ulceration is unknown, and is the focus of our research.
After gastroscopy, a specific treatment regime is devised based upon the location, severity and type of ulceration found, in addition targeted advice on changing management and feeding practice is given in order to improve gastric health and limit future ulcer development. Most horses are treated for 28 days, after which gastroscopy is repeated. Complete healing occurs in most cases seen at B&W, with less than 5% having long term ulcer recurrence.
At B&W we have completed around 300 gastroscopies a year since 2004 and are actively involved in researching this condition in sport and leisure horses. Most of our gastroscopies are carried out by our head of internal medicine, Richard Hepburn BVSc MS(Hons) CertEM(IntMed) DipACVIM MRCVS (ACVIM & RCVS Specialist in Equine Medicine).