"The vet has diagnosed ulcers…"

« My horse, who competes in show-jumping classes (at professional level), has recently lost a lot of condition. The vet carried out a gastroscopy and diagnosed ulcers in the glandular region of the stomach. He’s going to be receiving treatment for one and a half months.
What dietary changes should I make to accompany the treatment and to recover condition? »

The Reverdy answer

The horse’s stomach can be divided into two distinct regions:

  • A non-glandular region, also called “squamous”, located at the top of the stomach, it has very few means of protection from being attacked by acid contained in gastric juices. This region is therefore particularly sensitive to environmental factors such as a lack of forage, a lack of water, excess cereals and starch, or even strenuous exercise.
  • A glandular region, called this because it includes the glands that secrete gastric juices. It is located in the lower part of the stomach. The cells in this region are protected from being attacked by the acidic gastric juices by a thick mucus rich in bicarbonates, permitting the continuity of a neutral pH around the cells. The cause of ulcers in this region has not been established at this point in time, but would seem to be related to a problem in the implantation of cell protection mechanisms.

In your case, changes to the diet will have a number of objectives:

  • 1. Increase the natural means of defence against acidity such as salivation,
  • 2. Aid and perpetuate the treatment’s effect,
  • 3. Strengthen the stomach cells’ defences,
  • 4. Help regain condition.

As your horse is very physically active, his requirements are therfore high.

  • 1. To increase the natural means of defence against acidity, it’s important that the horse has ad-lib hay, to allow this don’t hesitate to place the hay in a small holed hay-net which will slow the speed at which the forage is ingested. About 2% of the live weight of the horse should be calculated in quantity of hay, so 10kg of hay for a 500kg horse. You can also feed dry wrapped hay (haylage),which has the advantage of being more appetising for horses who may be refusing to eat because of pain, as well as it being richer than ordinary hay.
  • 2. To aid and perpetuate the treatment’s effect, concentrate feeds must be low in starch, and composed using slow-releasing starch that will be little fermented in the stomach, and must provide during the 1st month less than 50g of starch for each 100kg live-weight per meal. We also advise not exceeding 200g of starch per 100kg live-weight per day. The feed, ADULT SPECIFIC ENERGY has been especially developed to provide elements that participate in gastric mucosa protection. Furthermore, this feed is low in starch and contains slow-releasing starch. For a horse weighing 500kg, we therefore advise not distributing more than 2L of ADULT SPECIFIC ENERGY per feed and no more than 8L per day, over 4 feeds. Following recovery, it is recommended not to provide more than 100g of starch per 100kg live weight per meal.
  • 3. To strengthen the stomach cells’ defences, it is of importance to provide them with elements neutralising gastric acidity as well as nutriments allowing them to produce their defence mechanisms against gastric acidity, like those found in CARE supplement. We advise adding 2 measures of CARE daily until complete recovery. Following recovery it is recommended to continue giving a single measure of CARE daily. GASTRIC GEL supplement can equally be given in the evening after the last feed and also before strenuous exercise in order to potentiate the effect of treatment and dietary change until recovery. After recovery, we suggest continuing to administer a syringe of GASTRIC GEL, for example before travelling or strenuous exercise sessions.
  • 4. To help regain condition, we must therefore increase energy in the diet, without increasing the quantity of cereals, and thus starch. To do this, in addition to ad-lib hay and the concentrate ration we recommend adding 50ml of oil per 100kg of live-weight daily to the concentrate feed, which if the horse is receiving 4 concentrate feeds a day, equates to 12.5ml per 100kg live-weight per feed. In addition to being very high in energy, an oil rich in essential fatty acids such as OMEGA OIL will help protect the gastric mucosa by lining the stomach wall and by providing nutriments for the synthesis of the protective mucus. It can also be of interest to strengthen protein intake with quality proteins in order to help build muscle whilst regaining condition, for this we suggest 2 measures of MYOSTIMUL daily until condition is recovered.

Finally, it is of equal importance to support the gastric and intestinal microbiota, which plays an essential role in digestion of food, gastric and intestinal health, as well as general good health. So to complete the action of CARE it is also judicious to give 2 measures of FLORE daily until satisfactory body condition is found, then continue with a single measure thereafter.