It has become apparent in recent years that a significant number of horses are suffering from gut disorders such as gastric and colonic ulcers, scour and enteroliths. This website has been set up to help horse owners resolve these problems by nutritional and managerial means.
SYMPTOMS of Gastro-Intestinal Ulcers include:
general lack of appetite,
windsucking & crib-biting, grinding teeth and excessive salivation
weaving and box-walking
lethargy, dull coat
acute or repetitive mild colic
loose droppings and fluid; scouring
Fractious behaviour, including bucking when ridden, objecting to girth.
Sensitive flanks, especially the right
Difficulty or resistance to bending and collection
CAUSES of Equine Gastro-Intestinal Ulcers
Frequent use of NSAID type drugs e.g.'Bute;
Can occur when feed bolted - lack of saliva to buffer stomach acid.
Horse allowed to go hungry - no fibre in stomach to protect against damage by stomach acid -for example in the early hours before morning stables.
Intensive exercise - can cause the stomach acid to splash onto the upper, unprotected stomach wall.
Stress - causes contraction of abdominal muscles, in turn compressing the stomach and forcing acid up onto the upper wall.
Feeding poor quality acidic haylage (mainly affects hind gut)
For a more detailed account of gastro-intestinal ulcers click to go to More_About_Ulcers.
Photograph of ulcers taken via endoscope
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SCOURING is nature's way of flushing deleterious material and organisms from the hind gut. It can be triggered by:
gut wall irritation or inflammation, caused by ulceration, infection, or gut parasites such as tapeworm or redworm.
Acidic gut contents resulting from a sugar or starch overload reaching the hind gut, or excessively acidic haylage.
Harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli, streptococcus etc, which proliferate in acidic conditions; they produce harmful toxins which trigger the scouring mechanism. In extreme cases the result is a stream of foul liquid which can plaster stable walls and anything (or anyone) within range of the horse's rear.
Lack of fibre in the diet - this can allow undigested food to reach the hindgut, with the results described above.
The problems just described can also cause laminitis.
are stone-like objects which form in the hindgut. Debris such as small grains of sand or grit, pieces of wood or metal become coated with mineral deposits and can grow to several cm in size. They impede gut function and can in extremis be fatal unless surgically removed. Horses on heavily grazed sandy or stony soil are particularly at risk. Diagnosis may require x-rays.
PREVENTION and CONTROL:
Your vet can confirm gastric ulcers by endoscopy, and treat with appropriate drugs. Colonic ulcers are more difficult; diagnosis requires analysis of the various symptoms. If required he can prescribe antibiotics for controlling scour.
You should encourage salivation by mixing long fibre (chaff or dried grass or preferably chopped alfalfa) with feed (already in HORSEHEATH products such as Bodybuilda and Antilam)
Ensure a source of forage always available. (use e.g. double haynet to slow rate of consumption - bed on straw if possible - oat or barley preferred).
Avoid poor quality haylage - especially if brown rather than green - it will probably be too acidic.
Reduce stress(if a problem) by appropriate management (provide companion animal, separate from bullies etc etc).
Try a calmer (e.g. Magnesium Oxide) for over-excitable horses. This also acts as an antacid, but do not feed to excess.
Include probiotics (especially live yeast) to help boost the beneficial, fibre-digesting bacteria in the hind-gut. Live yeast can be extremely effective for controlling scour.
If enteroliths are suspected, feed psyllium husk or other fibrous gut regulator (e.g. bran) to try and remove them. Remember to check droppings to verify diagnosis. This type of material can counteract scour.
Omega 3 rich feeds such as cooked linseed have strong anti-inflammatory properties; linseed produces mucilage which lines the gut wall and helps protect against acid attack.
Include oatfeed in the diet (this is oat husk, not the whole oat, so won't excite your horse). It contains polar lipids which support the gut wall, and is said to boost the immune system. Horseheath Anti-Lam contain a high proportion of this product.
Seek advice for correctly balancing the diet - via the contact form or phone John Chapman - 0844 8844 850/07721 384508 or any other competent nutritionist or vet or informed equestrian.
Horseheath Nutrition can advise on diet and management and suggest natural products which will be much cheaper than Omeprazole - based treatments.
If in doubt consult your vet - especially if symptoms are severe.
You will find a more detailed account of gastric ulcers, and Horseheath Nutrition, at More_About_Ulcers, and Horseheath Nutrition. For information about Horseheath Coarse Mixes, Balancers and supplements please visit www.gravenhorse.co.uk/Products.html .
If you need specific advice about a problem horse go to the Nutrition Enquiry form at the Contact us page on the Gravenhorse website
HORSEHEATH HOUSE, P.O. BOX 811 Flitwick, Beds. MK45 9AU
0844 8844 850- landline cheap rate; 07721 384508