Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome

Updated: May 4

Equine Gastric Ulcers Syndrome happens when stomach acid from the horse’s stomach splashes onto the Squamous Mucosa (see image) or the Glandular Mucosa and forms lesions within the stomach lining. Ulcer lesions can range on a scale from grade 0 to 4, zero is healthy and free of ulcers and four is extensive tissue damage. This can be very painful for the horse and performance can decrease. Ulcers can happen to any horse however, it has been found more commonly in the Thoroughbred breed.



On average, horses continuously produce approximately 4-5 gallons of acidic liquid. The Squamous Mucosa does not protect itself from these acids. The acid splash back occurs when exercising the horse, especially when cantering. Within the Glandular Mucosa is a protective layer called the roughage mat that can become damaged with ulcers caused by stress, NSAIDS, and limited water. Many things can act as a buffer for protection from acids including; minerals, saliva, different hay types, and milk in foals. Diagnosing Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome can be determined through use of an endoscope, however there are several classic warning signs to look out for.


Warning Signs

  • Abdominal discomfort

  • Poor appetite

  • Negative attitude

  • Sudden change in performance

  • Cinchy /touchy

  • Lack of energy

  • Dislike of brushing sides

  • Nipping at the sides

  • Rough coat

  • Weight loss

  • Low grade colic/ reoccurring colic

Risk Factors

  • Early weaning

  • Restricted turn out

  • Periods of fasting

  • Busy competition schedules

  • Frequent traveling

  • Pelleted diet with limited roughage

Treatment Options

There are many treatment options available for Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome. Please speak with your veterinarian about specific treatment options available for your horse.


Recommendations from Boehringer Ingelheim

Gastrogard: Lowers the PH in the acid, give first thing in the morning on an empty stomach before giving any other kind of medication.

  • Ranitidine (Prescribed): Treats and prevents reoccurrence of gastric ulcers.

  • Probiotics: Helpful in restoring healthy bacteria in the body.

  • Corn Oil: used as a preventative, do not give with Gastrogard, give later in the day so that the corn oil has no interference with Gastrogard absorption. Give 0.4 ml/lb of body weight.

Give your horse plenty of rest, turnout, water, and roughages; Avoid stressful situations if possible, and have a plan. Discuss with your veterinarian about ulcer prevention in advance. Your horse will thank you later.

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