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Ulcers, early sign of colic, or just a picky eater?

My 8 year old OTTB suddenly stopped eating his grain yesterday. BO called me yesterday and said that he didn’t touch his morning grain but finished his hay and was drinking normally as well. Called again yesterday afternoon and said the same thing (dumped old grain out and scooped new for him; still wasn’t interested). Went to see him last night, normal temperature, active gut sounds on both sides, eating hay, drinking, and pooping normally. Soaked some of his grain in warm water to make a semi-wet mash, fed some of it to him by hand which he reluctantly ate. Soaked the rest of his ration and put the bucket in his stall with him, wasn’t interested anymore…

Went back to see him this morning during breakfast, dumped new grain into his bucket - he took a couple of bites and then went back to his hay. Took vitals again, all the same as last night. Turned him out with some hay, happily ate, drank, and relaxed, pooped normally as well. Lunged him lightly, everything normal there too.

The only change to his feed is that I ran out of his Smartpaks last Thursday (delayed the shipment a little too long) and the new shipment will be here on Wednesday. However, he only gets his Smartpak (joint, hoof, and Cocosoya) in the mornings, so he has been eating plain grain in the afternoons before this started happening.

His teeth are floated every 9-10 months (moderate cribber), but they don’t seem like they are bothering him currently. He had his knees injected a week ago and I have read that the steroids they use for injections can upset their stomach. However, if that was the case here, I figured this would’ve happened closer to when he got the injections done and not a week later.

He has never been scoped for ulcers and hasn’t shown any common signs of having them, but I am thinking that he may be developing them because of how he just stopped eating grain but is acting normally otherwise (his breed and cribbing habit definitely make him a good candidate for ulcers…). My vet said to keep an eye on him and that if it continues, he will come out to do some bloodwork and check his teeth.

Has anyone dealt with this? If so, what was the underlying cause? Thanks in advance!

Can you try a different bag of the same grain? Or can you even offer a different grain. The point would be to determine is he refusing this particular batch of grain or just all grain all together.

Second, have you take a temp and checked all vitals? I’d be worried about an infection that you can’t see visually.

His temp was normal yesterday and this morning!

Offered two different bags of the same grain and wasn’t interested in either. My barn only feeds one type of grain, so I am not able to try out a different one sadly…I might be able to get some of another grain from my friend who has her horse at a self-care facility so I will try that next.

I don’t have the answers or underlying causes but my OTTB has similar issues in the winter. I’ve had this OTTB for 5 years and he seems to have stomach/ulcer issues every winter though it varies in severity. Sometimes he wont finish his grain for a feeding, sometimes he’ll act girthy for a few rides, and his worst symptom is that he’ll lay down and get up repeatedly and appear really collicy but still have bowel movements, other times he seems sulky undersaddle.

Treatments of course vary, if it is stomach ulcers a week of ulcerguard/gastroguard will give you an answer. Keep in mind if its hindgut the ompearzole (ulcerguard/gastroguard) test isn’t always as effective as its hard to get meds to the hind gut (I’m NOT an expert but have researched this subject to death).
I did scope my horse once and he did have confirmed, low grade, ulcers. We treated with omprerazole and his symptoms still didn’t go away, we did the succeed hind gut fecal test and came back positive so treated with succeed for 90 days. He was symptom free after that, but it was also spring and that could also explain the lack of symptoms as this is a winter issue for my horse.

I’m really not sure if this is relevant to your horse, obviously there could be another cause, id be tempted to try ulcer guard for a few days and see if there is a noticeable change, if not it could be hind gut which again isn’t always as simple to treat.

Of course if it is ulcers the only way to prevent it is to determine the trigger which is hard to do.

Good luck!

In my personal experience with my own horse I would strongly suspect ulcers. My horse always eat well, maintain his weight in fact he was overweight. I had him scoped five years ago I remember asking my vet if she thought he had ulcers she said no. I got him scoped. He had ulcers.

This was the first sign of ulcers in my mare. She would eat her hay just fine but was suddenly indifferent about her grain.

Update: brought a small tuppeware of another grain (2-3 handfuls) to the barn tonight just to see if he had any interest and he ate the whole thing without hesitation. Tried giving him his original grain afterwards and he turned his nose up at it…I will look into scoping him soon but right now it seems that he is not a fan of his grain anymore. Thanks everyone!

I think you’re on to something in thinking about the knee injections. My gelding has GI issues and when his hocks are injected, the vet gives him sulcrafate (sp?) tabs for 5 days post-injection to sooth his belly/hindgut. He still is less enthusiastic about his grain during those days. Something about the steriods mess with stressy bellies.

I started having to give Ulcergard around injections. Something about them would trigger a flare up and he would go off his grain. A treatment of gastrogard after that would fix it. Ulcergard or Nexium did seem to be enough as a preventative.

There were other reasons he would go off his grain but not all grain. Once we had a bit of a flood and I guess my container had a small leak. The very bottom of the container got some mold. He would not eat any of it. When I dumped it out is when I found the mold many pounds down. Changed containers. He remained suspicious of that grain for a little while but eventually went back to eating the same kind.

After hock injections last year he had a kidney issue we think from the Banamine he got with the injections. He went completely off his grain and supplements. Also drinking excessively and urinating huge amounts which is the part that alarmed me. He had been on Ulcergard for these injections.

Weeks later he would eat some of his supplements again (Platinum GI and magnesium), but I had to switch his grain entirely. It took 10-14 days to resolve the kidney issue. Months later he would consider eating some of the old grain that mixed in as extra calories because the kidney stress had made him lose a bunch of weight.

So a couple of weird analogies. But my bet would be the most obvious—ulcers.