Stomach ulcers - they are one of the most common diseases in horses today. They usually come unnoticed (to us) and are only treated when they have already caused massive damage to the horse's stomach lining. It should be mentioned here that a stomach ulcer is not just there, but develops over time.
How do stomach ulcers develop?
Ulcer Score assesses severity of gastric ulcers
The Ulcer Score divides stomach ulcers into four different degrees of severity. If the mucous membrane is damaged in one or more small areas, this is called grade 2. Here, gastric ulcers are more frequently recognised. Of course, this also depends on the horse, as every horse expresses pain differently and has a different pain tolerance limit. For example, there are horses that only have an irritated stomach lining and clearly express this through stomach ulcer-typical symptoms, while other horses with severe stomach ulcers hardly show any symptoms and may suffer silently.
If the damage is large, single or in several places, or even extensive on the surface, it is called grade 3 peptic ulcer. If the damage is spread over a large part of the mucosa and has penetrated deep into the mucosa or is even bloody, this condition is rated as grade 4. These mucosal changes are highly painful for horses and are usually hardly accompanied by no symptoms.
Different symptoms often lead to late diagnosis
Because the symptoms that horses express with stomach ulcers are so varied and diverse, a clear diagnosis often takes a long time and horse owners have gone through a multitude of examinations and high veterinary bills before a clear diagnosis of stomach ulcers is made.
For many horse owners, the stomach is not the main cause of a variety of symptoms, such as inability to ride, weight loss, poor feed intake, teeth grinding, altered drinking behavior or coupling, and often, for example, an ill-fitting saddle, the wrong bit, worm infestation or poor feed quality are suspected as the cause of certain symptoms, the "stomach problem" is given free rein and mild irritations of the stomach lining may develop into severe, bloody stomach ulcers, which can only be clearly diagnosed by a gastroscopy of the stomach.