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What causes gastric ulcers in horses?

04 May 2018

Gastric ulcers can be caused by a variety of issues relating to feed, management and workload. They are being increasingly diagnosed across all horse populations, including leisure horses, likely due to greater awareness of the signs and symptoms. There have also been developments in technology allowing vets to make earlier and more conclusive diagnoses.

What are the different types of gastric ulcers in horses?

There are three main types of gastric ulcers in horses:

  1. Glandular or mucosal ulcers occur in the lower part of the stomach and are typically associated with stress.
  2. Squamous ulcers occur on the upper part of the stomach and are mainly due to acid splash, such as working a horse on an empty stomach.
  3. Pyloric ulcers occur at the junction with the duodenum (first part of the small intestine) and are more likely to occur when the horse has not had access to feed for several hours.

What is the best treatment for gastric ulcers in horses?

Treating a horse with ulcers is a four-fold approach:

  1. Work closely with your vet, using medication if necessary to start the healing process.
  2. Remove as much stress as possible which includes making maximum use of turn out and company.
  3. Management changes ensuring the horse never goes for long periods without eating and has constant access to forage - which can be hay, haylage or forage as a feed - like Simple System Brix, pellets and chops. Offering a Target Feed before work is also beneficial, lining and protecting the stomach before work. Note that Target Feeding should only be done with forage feeds and not cereals.
  4. Dietary changes. Remove starchy ingredients that are likely to increase acidity in the stomach as well as common irritants such as straw and soya. Maximise the use of forage and use feeds that can actively buffer acid. Grass is good; lucerne and sainfoin are better. Linseed can be very beneficial due to its soluble fibre and good ratio of omega oils.

Horses are individuals and respond in different ways to their management, feeding and medication. It is important to maintain dialogue with our Feed Line nutrition team and vet to ensure the best outcome for your individual horse.

For feeding advice and management suggestions complete our Feeding Advice form or call us on 01728 604 008. Alternatively, you can see our best feeds for ulcers below.

Featured Products

A nutrient rich, premium lucerne chop with fresh cold pressed linseed oil.


A comprehensive forage balancer with calming support, specifically developed to help settle reactive, tense or spooky horses.


A tonic feed based on wild flower meadow forages & horseradish to support the immune system.


Cooked full fat linseed, ready to feed. A valuable source of essential Omega 3.


Premium lucerne compressed into 1kg blocks, feed whole & dry to mimic grazing.


Premium lucerne chop, naturally high in calcium & protein to support muscles & bones.


Our highest fibre, low sugar lucerne in 6mm cubes, perfect for those needing a low calorie feed.


Premium 12mm lucerne nuts, naturally high in calcium & protein to support muscles & bones.


Premium 6mm organic lucerne pellets, naturally high in calcium & protein to support muscles & bones.


Sieved lucerne chop ideal for all equines, especially those looking to lose weight.


Premium forage alternative to lucerne and grass, rich in natural minerals and trace elements.


A carefully formulated forage balancer containing high quality functional ingredients for promoting optimum health.


A blend of top quality ingredients for our ultimate forage balancer. Feed all year round to complement forages & grazing.


A comprehensive forage balancer with natural joint care. Designed to support older or harder working horses, aiding comfort, flexibility and range of motion.


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