Gastric ulcer disease is common in both foals and horses, and due to the many causes and complicated nature is often referred to as Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS). There are reports of 25-50% prevalence in foals, about 90% in racehorses in training, 30% of adult horses and 50-70% prevalence in adult horses in competition training. However, accuracy of estimates of prevalence is limited by the fact that an endoscopic diagnosis is required.
EGUS is a minor cause of foal mortality but is often a complication of systemic or orthopaedic disease. Symptomatic ulcers are usually located in gastric glandular mucosa, with non-symptomatic ulcers usually located in the non-glandular portion of the stomach near the margo plicatus. It is a common endoscopic finding in otherwise well foals and horses - 51% ulcers are asymptomatic.
Common causes include non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (eg phenylbutazone, flunixin meglumine), stress (eg transport, temperament, weather, parturition, weaning, orthopaedic surgery, etc), infection (eg rotavirus), diet (low fibre, infrequent feeding), delayed gastric emptying, parasites, and foreign bodies have also been implicated.
The aim of treatment is to promote ulcer healing by protecting existing ulcer(s) and decreasing gastric acidity. Doses and treatment regimens tend to be base on human and laboratory research, or anecdotal experience. Once clinical signs develop, appropriately aggressive treatment is required. Dietary modification must be implemented, ie increased roughage access and meal frequency, reduced concentrates; addition of alfalfa hay and corn oil to the diet.
Prognosis is unknown, and relationships between occurrence of ulcers and development of clinical signs are unknown. More than 50% of perforating ulcers have no premonitory signs.
For further information on EGUS check out this related content available on Vetlexicon Equis: