Ulcers—need wisdom

Definitely having your horse scoped is a good idea because then you’ll know what you’re treating. My mare had ulcers last year. I treated her with gastroguard, sucralfate and misoprostol. This is a horse turned out 24/7 on minimal grain. I never thought ulcers but she was being naughty in the hunt field and agitated in the trailer.

The treatment cleared up the ulcers – I scoped hear again. To keep her comfortable, I changed her feed to no grain – just beet pulp and a ration balancer, added alfalfa hay and Purina Outlast. For a while I also gave her papaya puree.

During hunt season I put her back on sucralfate and she came through just fine. There’s a strong temptation to throw everything including the kitchen sink at them, but having a baseline and knowing what causes improvement, is a sensible way to proceed.


There are way too many horses with the perfect management, who still have ulcers.

All the grass, all the turnout, all the “natural foods, grain is evil, anti-inflammatory” diet in the world, doesn’t help the horse who is by nature an internalist, who internalizes worries, or for whom turnout itself is a stress


I disagree. There’s not horses who have a “perfect management” that get ulcers just because. There’s just horses that get ulcers for reasons the owners haven’t figured out yet.

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So when a horse is turned out full time on pasture with buddies, fed a low NSC feed, fed low NSC hay during the Winter, and still gets ulcers, what else would you do to “perfectly” manage that horse? Stop doing endurance work with him? Stop riding him altogether?

How is it that foals can be born with ulcers - humans certainly didn’t cause them.

The reason for ulcers doesn’t have to have anything to do with that the human is doing or not doing.


When I say management it includes the way the horse is kept and trained as well. You can have them out 24/7 with a bully or ridden galloping it everywhere when it doesn’t want to or ridden back to front or made to go with sore hooves, etc, etc.

The turn out is just a part of it.

I haven’t heard of foals born with ulcers as I haven’t researched it, but if a foal is separated from Mum accidentally by a fence or something like that they can get ulcers, I was told this was from not being able to feed as often as they should.

@SuzieQNutter, did you read @McGurk’s post?

I don’t think anyone is saying that good management is not the best first step. We are just saying that some horses, even with the best management, are still going to have an issue. Just like some humans have more trouble than others with these types of issues.


This horse sounds exactly like our gelding with PSSM2. Feeding him and exercising him within the PSSM2 guidelines changed everything, profoundly. In his case, taking him off pasture and keeping him in a dry lot with carefully managed hay and concentrate sources along with a buddy, and exercising him daily made an enormous difference. He’s back to being supple, easy, and happy.

Even being kept with the dam, but in a stressful situation, can cause a goal to get ulcers. E.g. dam has postpartum complications and dam and foal are in a vet hospital for a couple of days… even if her milk quality is great and the goal nurses healthily.


Yes, being born with ulcers is a thing

Transitioning from nursing to eating hay can cause ulcers as their digestive system adjusts.

Neither of those are management issues.

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Yes there are exceptions to every rule.

However I have not come across them personally. I have been retraining horses, mainly tbs for close on 40 years.

I remember everything told to me by the owners before they come, but that is not the horse you are looking at now having been here.

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This. We’re hopefully finishing up treatment for my guy after 6 months. 3 months of full dose GG + misoprostol, 3 months misoprostol + Sucralfate, with scopes every 30 days through the first four months. We’re rescoping next week to find out if he’s finally ready to come off the miso and Sucralfate.

He was out 24/7 on grass and off grain. I sure wish those two things alone fixed ulcers reliably in all cases. It just doesn’t. The vets suspect that he had ulcers long before I got him. His previous leaser confirmed serious symptoms that went untreated. So long term ulcers needed long term treatment to really resolve.

Scoping is a great idea. A few hundred dollars to determine definitively if ulcers are the issue, versus thousands of dollars throwing meds at it. Also, ask your vet about taking a sample of gastric fluid for pH testing during the scope. Our treatment plan changed radically once we saw how extremely low his pH was - 1.6 when normal is somewhere between 4 and 5.

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Thanks all!

I also have another related question…horse has lost weight (not huge amounts but a girth hole’s worth) since moving to new barn a little over a month ago. He has been fed exactly the same grain as previous barn in exact same amounts and has free choice hay (24/7 or darn well close to that). Is that an indication of ulcers, or can stress alone cause that? He’s been eating everything (he’s not leaving grain behind).

I’m process of figuring out with vet when to scope based on when he’s finished with meds.

Until you find a horse psychologist who can turn born worriers into non-worriers, in those cases it doesn’t really matter if the owner hasn’t figured it out yet. The problem will still exist. With all the knowledge in the world, an owner can’t fix everything. You can only manage it the best you can.


Then you have been most fortunate.


It can be an indication of ulcers. My guy’s previous owners were feeding him 14lbs of Seminole Dynasport per day when I bought him. He’s now gaining weight on 5lbs of Purina Ultium. Our guess after talking to the vet is that his stomach was so inflamed and excessively acidic that he wasn’t digesting properly, so they kept throwing more grain at him instead of treating.

However, stress can cause weight loss, as can changes in hay quality. It’s hard to know without testing, but if he was getting more nutrient dense hay at the old place, it might make a difference. If he’s finishing his grain and you’re planning to scope anyway, I might just keep doing what you’re doing and see if he settles and regains some weight in the meantime.

This could also be a change in muscle. If he was getting worked frequently and then did not for some time…

I was under the impression that scoping was around $1k which is basically the same as a month of GastroGard and that’s why people would just do the month of GG and see if it helped.

I’ve never had one scoped, what does it actually cost these days?

I think my last one was around $300. (plus farm call)

I had him scoped at New Bolton in March, that was $250 including sedation. His rescopes have all been at our local clinic, but they’ve run about $350 including overnight stall at the clinic and sedation. It would be about the same to do it on-farm when you factor in the call charge.

Definitely substantially less than a month of GG!

ETA: Our insurance wouldn’t cover GG until or unless we scoped first. So the benefit was double - not only could we see exactly what we were dealing with in his stomach, but insurance then covered the cost of the scope and the month of GG.