Nutritional Articles

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Gastric ulcers in horses

Published: 2006-02-20

Brief content of the article
Gastric ulcers are common in horses resulting in decreased performance and economic loss to the industry. Ulcers usually occur in the non-glandular mucosa of the stomach, which lacks adequate protection against the harmful effect of stomach acids. Also, performance horses are fed high hydrolysable carbohydrate (grain) diets, which lower stomach pH and serve as substrates for resident fermentative bacteria, such as Lactobacillus spp. By-products of these bacteria include organic acids (VFA and lactic acid) that cause injury to the mucosa. This manuscript reviews the anatomy and barrier function of the stomach, and the causes and risk factors for development of gastric ulcers in horses. Briefly, acid exposure is thought to be the primary cause of gastric ulcers in horses but several risk factors have been identified. Horses in training and racing, horses subjected to transport, horses receiving nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have a higher risk of developing gastric ulcers. Horses grazing at pasture (less stall confinement) and thus a continuous feeding regiment may have a lesser risk for developing gastric ulcers. Diets high in carbohydrates and protein have also been implicated in causing gastric ulcers in horses. The Helicobacter species (bacteria) are an important cause of ulcers in other species, but this bacteria has not been cultured in the horse.
Keywords: gastric ulcers, gastric acid production, stress

Andrews, F.M., Buchanan, B.R., Elliot, S.B., Clariday, N.A. and Edwards, L.H. 2005. Gastric ulcers in horses. J. Anim. Sci. 83 (Elec. Suppl.1 p. E18-E21).

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