May 16, 2018

​Interpretive Summary: Effects of a Dietary Supplement on Gastric Ulcer Number and Severity in Exercising Horses

Interpretive Summary: Effects of a dietary supplement on gastric ulcer number and severity in exercising horses.

By: Megan LaFollette

In April 2018, Translational Animal Science published an article that investigated the effects of a dietary supplement on the treatment of equine gastric ulcers. Equine gastric ulcer syndrome is a relatively common diagnosis that negatively affects equine health and performance. Additionally, diagnosing and treating gastric ulcers can be expensive. The causes of these ulcers include exercise, diet, and confinement, all of which are common in horses in university equine programs. Previously, equine gastric ulcers have been treated with medications (such as omeprazole paste and ranitidine, which can be costly) or management changes (diet and housing) to varying degrees of success. The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of an oral supplement on gastric ulceration in horses in university riding programs.

In this study, 28 performance horses diagnosed with ulcers (13 from Murray State University and 15 from Virginia Intermont College) were given a proprietary oral supplement (formulated to support healthy gastric function) for 30 days. A licensed veterinarian evaluated the ulcerations with gastroscopy before and after the trial. Before the trial 44 and 19 horses were screened at Murray and Virginia, respectively, with only horses with lesions being included in the study. Horses were given 14 days to acclimate to the supplement before the trial, with molasses and a textured concentrate added to increase palatability for some horses at Murray State. Horses were evaluated for body condition score, weight, and subjective behavior throughout this study. Horses were fed concentrate and either housed in pasture (n = 7) or stalls with limited access to turnout (n = 21, also fed hay at least twice a day).

Researchers found that lesion scores/severity ratings declined after feeding the supplement at both Murray State University and Virginia Intermont College. There were no changes in horse body condition score, body weight, or subjective behavior. At Murray State University, there was no difference in lesions score changed based on whether the horses were stalled or pastured. At Virginia Intermont College, the number of lesions was similar before and after supplement feeding, while this data was not recorded at Murray State University. At Murray State University, there were palatability issues with some horses continuing to refuse to eat the supplement throughout the trial.

Overall, this study shows that oral supplements can lessen the severity of gastric ulcers. Additionally, this study shows that only providing horses with access to forage may not be enough to prevent ulcers (since study horses were provided with forage access the majority of the time and still had ulcers).  This result may be of particular importance as horse owners and managers are interested in alternatives to expensive medications. Several factors could have influenced results in this study. First, the presence of bot larvae seen in the stomachs of several horses at both locations during the initial gastroscopy, with horses at Murray State University receiving deworming before the feeding trial. Second, at each location horses were housed slightly differently and different lesions scoring systems were used. However, overall results still suggest positive results from feeding oral supplements to horses with gastric ulcers.

To view the full article, " Effects of a dietary supplement on gastric ulcer number and severity in exercising horses," visit Translational Animal Science