"My horse has changed recently, with bad habits and behaviours that I’ve never seen him display before..." Do these symptoms indicate a gastric ulcer?
When a horse suffers from the pain caused by the gastric ulcer, a certain amount of time often passes until it’s noticed. Symptoms such as biting, flehmen response, unwillingness and cold back are often not recognized as symptoms of a gastric ulcer and dismissed as bad habits. Many horse owners also report that their veterinarians did not take symptoms seriously. With gastric ulcers in particular, rapid treatment and early diagnosis are key to preventing further damage to the stomach lining.
If the horse displays various symptoms that indicate a gastric ulcer, a gastroscopy should be performed immediately to exclude other diseases, such as intestinal emptying disorders. This should be followed by a targeted treatment of gastric ulcers.
But what costs are involved if I suspect a gastric ulcer?
A gastric ulcer diagnosis requires a gastroscopy by a veterinarian. Depending on the region and whether it is carried out in your stable or in the veterinary clinic, this can cost between €200 and €500. A horse must have an empty stomach and be sedated for at least twelve hours before the procedure. If the suspected gastric ulcer is confirmed, the horse is usually first treated with the active substance Omeprazole, found in GastroGard and Pepticure. It is administered orally in paste form.
The active ingredient Omeprazole inhibits the formation of hydrochloric acid in the stomach so that the ulcers can heal and the damaged stomach lining can regenerate. According to the package instructions, treatment with Omeprazole is carried out over eight weeks, with the horse receiving 4 mg Omeprazole per kg of body weight in the first four weeks and 1 mg Omeprazole per kg of body weight in the last four weeks.
To illustrate what an eight-week treatment with Omeprazole costs, we have illustrated this in an example.
Example: GastroGard treatment for a 600 kg horse
1 tube of GastroGard costs about €30.
1 tube contains 6.16 g GastroGard
1 g GastroGard contains 370 mg Omeprazole (37%)
⇒ 1 tube of GastroGard contains 2.28 g Omeprazole
The horse receives 4 mg Omeprazole per kg of body weight in the first four weeks.
⇒ 600 kg horse receives 2.4 g Omeprazole
⇒ 2.4 g Omeprazole corresponds to about one tube of GastroGard
⇒ during the first four weeks the horse needs one tube of GastroGard per day.
⇒ Treatment costs in the first four weeks: € 840
The horse receives 1 mg Omeprazole per kg of body weight in the last four weeks.
⇒ 600 kg horse receives 0.6 g Omeprazole
⇒ 0.6 g Omeprazole corresponds to about one-quarter tube GastroGard
⇒ in the last four weeks the horse needs a quarter tube of GastroGard every day
⇒ treatment costs in the last four weeks: € 210
Total cost for eight weeks of GastroGard: € 1050
Why does one hear from horse owners that the "complete procedure for a gastric ulcer on their horse" cost several thousand euros?
Gastric ulcers are often diagnosed late due to incorrectly interpreted symptoms, meaning that unnecessary costs often arise before diagnosis. In addition, an eight-week Omeprazole treatment will not completely heal gastric ulcers in every horse. And even after a successful treatment, one can’t simply assume that everything has been taken care of.
Many horses have intestinal problems after Omeprazole treatment due to the side effects, so subsequent intestinal rehabilitation is advisable. Most horses relapse after an initially successful Omeprazole treatment. If the causes – usually related to feeding or stress – are not eliminated, this will put you back to square one. Sensitive horses who generally tend to have stomach problems may require feed solutions for buffering excess gastric acid which irritates the stomach lining and thus triggers gastric ulcers.
At less than €2 per day, Equine 74 Gastric is both an ideal feed supplement and a cost-effective long-term alternative to recurring expensive treatments with Omeprazole. Equine 74 Gastric buffers stress-induced excess gastric acid, preventing it from attacking the sensitive stomach lining.