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Scientific Studies on Equine Gastric Ulcers: Insights and Findings

Tanja Dietz


13 Min. Lesezeit

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The topic of gastric ulcers in horses is gaining increasing importance. Alongside lameness and respiratory diseases, issues like gastric mucosal changes, gastric ulcers, digestive problems, and colic are among the most common reasons for consulting veterinarians.

Secure a free feed sample of Equine 74 Gastric and help your horse to buffer  excess stomach acid, so it feels well again.

For decades, scientists have delved into the origins, prevalence, and relationships between posture, feeding, and many other aspects. They also explore the effects of medications, changes in posture, and supplementation.

Whether you own a horse with gastric ulcers, or you're a veterinarian or therapist seeking scientific studies that provide a clear and current understanding of equine gastric issues, you've come to the right place! Are you interested in a specific area of research on gastric ulcers in horses?

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Are you interested in a specific topic within the field of research on gastric ulcers in horses?

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What defines a scientific study?

Forums are bustling with thousands of individuals, each with varying levels of knowledge. While exchanging information is encouraged and can be beneficial, it is crucial to be able to distinguish between baseless recommendations and evidence-based, scientific findings. This is especially important when it comes to the health of our horses, as we rely on solid research and facts to guide our actions. Engaging with studies is a valuable way to achieve this goal.

The primary aim of a scientific study is to present a subject matter or findings from scientific research in a way that provides a comprehensive overview for a third party. Knowledge dissemination is key. Scientific, medical, or social science studies are distinguished in this regard. 

It is indeed a fascinating approach to delve into the scientific examination and existing studies on the topic of gastric ulcers.

  • To analyze these studies, we pose the following questions:
  • What is the methodology employed by the scientists?
  • What are the backgrounds, objectives, and methods utilized?

Who is behind the study?

A study can be conducted by a company or by one or more independent scientists. The goal is to gain new insights into a particular question. Here at Equine 74, we have also commissioned a scientific study to scientifically validate the efficacy of Equine 74 Gastric. You can read it here.

Scientific studies are categorized as follows:

Case studies: These present a real-life case that addresses a specific issue. For example, observing a group of horses in an open barn setting and predicting the occurrence of gastric ulcers based on behavioral changes. This may lead to solutions like reorganizing the herd or forming smaller groups. Case studies focus on objects or phenomena in a real environment, such as an open barn.

Field studies: Also known as field research, this method allows for the observation of an object, in our case, one or more horses, in their natural habitat, whether it be an open barn or a stall. Researchers here have either an observational or descriptive role. Theoretical or lab-derived findings can be tested in a real-world setting.

Laboratory studies: Experiments are conducted in a controlled laboratory environment where specific conditions for the study can be created without environmental influences.

Momentary studies: The Momentary Multiple Sampling, or MMS, allows for observations of processes or behaviors at different time points. In our case, horses are observed at various times to analyze behavior or food consumption throughout the day.

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Scientific studies are categorized into:

  • Case studies: These involve presenting a real-life case that addresses a specific problem. For example, observing an open stable herd and predicting the occurrence of gastric ulcers based on behavioral changes. A solution, such as a new herd composition or smaller groups, is then developed. Case studies focus on objects or phenomena in a real environment, like an open stable.
  • Field studies: Also known as field studies, they allow the observation of an object, in this case, one or more horses, in their natural environment, whether it's an open stable or a stall. Study leaders have either an observational or descriptive task here. Insights derived from theory or the laboratory can be tested in a "wild" setting. For instance, if it's known that hay contributes significantly to saliva production, the development of gastric ulcers can be experimentally tested with multiple horses in the stable during feeding.
  • Laboratory studies: Experiments are conducted in a controlled environment, such as a laboratory. Specific environmental conditions for the desired study can be created, with no external influences playing a role.

Forschung im Bereich Magengeschwuere beim Pferd
  • Multimoment studies, also known as MMH, involve sampling observations at various time points to analyze behaviors or processes. In our case, horses are observed at different intervals, allowing for a detailed examination of their behaviors and feeding patterns throughout the day.

How is a scientific study structured?

Studies follow a protocol-like format, where certain sections can be omitted. The key components of any study include: Introduction, Objectives, Materials and Methods, Results, and Discussion.

Abstract: Typically written in English for international accessibility, the Abstract serves as a concise summary of the findings, allowing readers to grasp the content without having to read the entire study.

Introduction and Literature Review: This section introduces the topic of the study, discussing the current research landscape, existing findings, and general background information on issues such as gastric ulcers in horses.

Objectives: Setting clear objectives is crucial. The researcher formulates a hypothesis, which may be accepted or rejected during the course of the study. This process involves statistical methods, which, while daunting for some, are essential for any study.

Animals, Materials, and Methods: This section details the animals under investigation, in this case, horses, and how they were studied or observed. Were they filmed or observed by individuals on-site? Did they undergo gastroscopy to monitor gastric ulcers? How many horses participated in the study, and what were their ages?

Results: Statistical methods are employed to collect data in this section, representing the descriptive part of the study. Interpretation is not yet provided; instead, it focuses on data collection, often presented through tables, graphs, and tests.

Discussion: The analytical section of the study evaluates and discusses the newly acquired results in relation to current research. Comparisons with previous studies are made using direct and indirect citations. Filtering out key insights from a wealth of scientific knowledge is essential by focusing on the study's question or hypothesis.

Critical Appraisal: Also known as critical evaluation, this allows the study author to critically assess the study design and highlight any potential flaws in the experimental setup. While surveys indicate that a larger number of participants lead to more significant results, this is often not feasible with horses due to animal welfare regulations. Factors such as living conditions, feeding, and stress susceptibility in horses can significantly impact the animal and should be mentioned and critically examined in this section.

Summary: A brief and concise overview of the study is presented here.

Conclusion, Summary, Outlook: To conclude, the initial hypothesis is either accepted or rejected. Do the results support the hypothesis, or did something entirely unexpected emerge from the scientific work? Recommendations for action or future research directions are noted here, reflecting on the new insights gained from the study.

How can I determine the quality of a scientific study?

Well-founded scientific studies are characterized by a meticulously maintained study protocol, outlining a detailed research process. Elements such as a structured planning of the experimental procedure, a transparent approach, and publication on an international scale provide insights into the credibility of the study.

A strong study objectively presents and analyzes the facts at hand. A thorough literature review is essential. The methods should be detailed to ensure reproducibility of results upon verification. A critical examination of the study's topic is desirable. The critical appraisal allows for reflection on the study protocol and potential shortcomings in the process.

Scientific Studies on Gastric Ulcers in Horses 

The search term "gastric ulcers in horses" on Google, as of March 2022, yields 22,600 search results. There is a high interest in scientifically validated insights into gastric ulcers in horses, but uncovering the first scientific study through internet searches requires thorough research.

We have taken on this task for you, aiming to gather a multitude of studies on gastric ulcers in horses in one accessible place. These studies have been meticulously categorized and summarized for your convenience. They are freely available on the internet for you to read at no cost.

Wissenschaftliche Studien Pferd Equine 74

Connection between Colic and Gastric Ulcers

Recurring colic episodes in horses often serve as a sign of gastric mucosal irritation or ulcers in the stomach lining. But is there truly a scientifically proven correlation?

The aim of the dissertation "Impact of Colic Diseases on the Development of Gastric Mucosal Lesions in Horses" is to investigate whether colic and gastric mucosal irritations are interconnected. The risk factors for colic treatment and gastric mucosal irritation are strikingly similar, including factors such as fasting, pain, stress, or medication administration. In the study, 30 horses with colic symptoms and 10 without were examined. As this was a longitudinal study, horses with colic symptoms underwent gastroscopy, blood sampling, and gastric content sampling. A second gastroscopy and additional sampling were conducted after four days to reveal the study's outcomes.


Connection between Cribbing and Gastric Mucosal Irritations

The scientific study, "Causes and Functions of Cribbing in Horses and the Possibilities and Limitations of Prevention and Therapy," delves into the inquiry of whether treating gastric ulcers with Omeprazole has any impact on a horse's cribbing behavior, thereby establishing a connection between cribbing and EGUS. A placebo-controlled double-blind study was conducted, examining the changes in the stomach lining using an endoscope. Interestingly, no significant correlation between cribbing behavior and gastric health was identified. It is suggested that the horse's response may be independent and triggered by similar factors. Learn more about the stereotypic behavior of cribbing here.

Stomach Acid and pH Levels in a Horse's Stomach 

Gastric ulcers in the non-glandular part of a horse's stomach are typically induced by an excess of stomach acid. This can stem from various causes, such as feeding errors or stress. The pH level of a horse's stomach provides insight into its current acidity, which can vary depending on the type and amount of feed.

In the scientific study titled "Electrolytes, Enzymes, Metabolites, and Mucus in the Duodenal Fluid of Healthy and Ill Horses," samples of gastric and duodenal fluid were collected from 18 horses, including seven clinically healthy ones and eleven horses who underwent gastroscopy due to colic. A pH meter was utilized to measure the pH levels. The study findings revealed a significant increase in both the pH levels and bilirubin concentration in the gastric fluid. This suggests that all the ill horses experienced reflux. Bilirubin serves as an indicator of potential reflux of duodenal fluid into the stomach.

Etiology of Gastric Ulcers in Horses

The focus of the dissertation, "Multicenter Investigation on the Etiology of Gastric Ulcers in Horses," revolves around examining the symptoms of different patients with various locations of gastric diseases. This aims to aid in the swift identification of afflicted horses. The investigation is carried out through a questionnaire filled out by the respective owners, a veterinary examination form, and gastroscopy. The survey confirms factors known from literature, such as the feeding of large amounts of concentrate feed and stress as causes of gastric mucosal lesions. Recurring colics and flehmen are identified as typical symptoms.

Interested in more reliable and easy-to-read information about your horse's  well-being? Explore our free eBooks.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Gastric Ulcers in Horses

The aim of the study, "Macroscopic and histological examinations of the horse's gastric mucosa and their evaluation according to the Sydney system," was to determine whether the evaluation system from human medicine could also be applicable to horses. For the study, postmortem gastric mucosa samples were taken from 60 horses. The study's outcome indicates that in addition to the classification into Grades 1 to 4, the Sydney system can enhance the diagnosis of gastric ulcers in horses.

Pferdewissenschaften Equine 74

Gastric ulcers at the Pylorus of the horse

Gastric ulcers can manifest at various locations within the horse's stomach, with the Pylorus, the stomach's exit point, posing challenges for treatment. The availability of longer endoscopes has now enabled the examination of the Pylorus. The dissertation "Prevalence and Risk Factor Analysis of Gastric Mucosal Lesions in the Pylorus Region of the Horse" delves into an analysis based on criteria such as horse age, gender, breed, and performance level.

The study examined 315 horses, with 262 showing findings in the Pylorus region. The study's outcome indicated that high-performance levels in horses are a risk factor for Pyloric mucosal lesions. Noteworthy is that even horses in the equestrian sport, particularly ambitious leisure horses, are significantly more prone to this condition. 


Gastric mucosal irritations in foals

The study "Gastric Mucosal Lesions in Foals Before and After Weaning: Influence of Omeprazole" delves into the impact of the weaning process on body weight and the occurrence of gastric ulcers. A total of 79 foals underwent assessments of Body Condition Score (BCS), body weight measurements, and gastroscopy. The foals were divided into two groups: a control group and a group receiving Omeprazole treatment. Through behavioral observations and serum cortisol concentration assessments, the study aimed to investigate the potential stress induced by the weaning process.

The study results reveal a striking finding: before weaning, 48% of foals exhibit gastric mucosal irritations, while 14 days after weaning, this number rises to 95%. Surprisingly, the oral administration of Omeprazole, as indicated by the study, results in more stress for the foals, rather than improving their gastric health. The significant increase in findings serves as undeniable proof. Despite no notable declines in Body Condition Score (BCS), the weaning process cannot be deemed detrimental to the foals' physical development.


Effects of Feed on the Gastric Health of Horses

When it comes to the gastric health of horses, the focus is on feeding processes and types of feed. Which feeds are suitable for horses with gastric mucosal irritation, and which ones should be avoided?

Alfalfa, a legume feed, sparks debates within the equestrian community. Claimed to raise stomach pH and shield the mucosa from irritations, its effects on equine gastric health are scrutinized. In the study "Impact of Feeding Alfalfa Chops on the Gastric Mucosa of Adult Horses," researchers delve into the critical role of alfalfa particle size in its suitability as a feed. Surprisingly, even a mere 2mm chop length triggered mucosal irritations in foals. Endoscopic examinations on adult horses revealed damage at the Pylorus region, emphasizing the potential risks. The study's conclusive finding: the sharp-edged nature of alfalfa chops may lead to gastric mucosal lesions in horses.

When it comes to feeding, it is crucial to pay attention to the length of the chop or opt for pellets or extrudates - learn more here about using alfalfa as a feed for horses with gastric ulcers.

Interested in more reliable and easy-to-read information about your horse's  well-being? Explore our free eBooks.

Gastric supplements of marine origin for horses

To scientifically validate the effectiveness of Equine 74 Gastric, we commissioned the study "Examining the Impact of a Marine-Derived, Multimineral Supplement in Simulated Equine Stomach and Hindgut Environments." Our goal was to determine if Equine 74 Gastric can combat gastrointestinal acidosis. Discover what makes Equine 74 Gastric stand out here. During the in vitro experiments conducted as part of the study, Equine 74 Gastric was added to various feed rations. The results showed that the addition of Equine 74 Gastric raised the pH level in all cases, indicating that this could also occur in vivo, specifically in the horse's stomach. Additionally, a buffering effect on small intestine digestion and a mild stimulation of large intestine digestion were observed.



How can stress be measured in horses?

Stress plays a significant role in the development of gastric ulcers as it leads to an increase in stomach acid production. Understanding the measurable parameters that determine stress in horses is crucial, as it sheds light on the impact of stress on their gastric health. 
The study, "Evaluation of Stress Parameters in Horses in Relation to Hospitalization," delves precisely into this question. 110 horses participated in the study, where blood and fecal samples were collected during their hospital stay.

The study revealed that the ratio of granulocytes to lymphocytes is a reliable parameter indicating stress in horses. Interestingly, unlike cortisol levels, the glucose level appears to be a more reliable indicator of stress in horses.

Current studies on horse gastric health are frequently published, highlighting the importance of implementing new scientific findings in practice. This approach can lead to quicker and easier diagnosis, more effective treatment of gastric ulcers in horses, and potentially better prevention strategies in the future.


Have you come across an intriguing study that you're eager to share with us? 

Feel free to drop us an email at tanja@equine74.com and share your study with us. We look forward to adding it to this collection.

Equine 74 Gastric

The long-term solution

Buffers the excess acid in the horse's stomach instead of blocking it.

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In case of acute stress

Supports the nervous horse stomach in stressful situations.