Catley Cross Vets Gastroscopy Day

I recently joined the lovely team at Catley Cross Vets for their Gastroscopy Day where horses that the vets thought might have ulcers were brought in to the clinic. We scoped 5 horses; 1 re-scope from the first scoping day the vets held in December, 2 that had previously been diagnosed and treated for gastric ulcers and 2 that had never been scoped before. All 5 horses had some ulceration, 3 had pyloric ulcers, 1 had squamous ulcers and 1 had both kinds of ulcers.

Horse being scoped

Along with the gastroscope all the horses also had a lameness assessment, diet assessment and were weighed so their medication could be accurately dosed and their weight monitored going forward. Owners were given a diet plan including forage quantities during and post medication.

There are many different causes of gastric ulceration, some horses have good management and diets yet still seem to be prone to gastric ulceration, so it is important to look for other causes of stress including pain, which may be underlying. 4 out of the 5 horses scoped exhibited some signs of lameness and will be investigated further.

Lameness Assessment

There is so much misinformation on feeding horses with gastric ulcers so I thought I would share some of my recommendations for one of the horses I met at Catley!

The aim when feeding a horse with gastric ulcers is to feed a diet high in fibre and low in sugar and starch. It is important to look at the horse’s whole ration to make a difference. It is easy to get fixated with the bucket feed (which is of course very important) and forget the bigger picture – the forage and grazing make up the largest part of what our horses eat so getting this right is really important.

One of the horses I met at Catley Cross Vets is Kevin, an 8 yr old ISH, he was diagnosed with grade 3 squamous ulcers. One of the things his owner mentioned during his diet assessment was that he has a limited appetite and can be fussy eating hay. This could be a symptom of having ulcers but can also contribute to a horse developing ulcers if they aren’t eating enough fibre, so is definitely something that needs monitoring. I advised his owner to monitor the amount of hay he is eating and suggested she weighed the hay into and out of his stable to check how much he is consuming. I also suggested offering some additional fibre in addition to his normal bucket feed which can be increased to top up the fibre on days that he has consumed less hay. Feeds such as Dengie Pure Grass and Meadow Grass with Herbs and Oil can be fed as a complete and partial forage replacer respectively and can help to tempt fussy eaters.

Kevin, an 8 yr old ISH

Kevin is normally fed an alfalfa-based fibre feed alongside a vitamin and mineral supplement. Alfalfa is a good source of quality fibre and can be a useful inclusion in the ration, it is especially useful for horses that are in harder work or those that don’t maintain weight easily like Kevin as it provides a source of very digestible fibre and quality protein. It is well understood that alfalfa helps to buffer stomach pH which can have a protective effect in horses prone to gastric ulceration. In a study published last year findings demonstrate clinical success is 47.7 times more likely in horses fed alfalfa pellets as part of their ration compared to those on concentrate only rations (Julliand et al, 2023).

Looking in a bit more detail at Kevin’s feed has highlighted that the supplement his owner had selected is not actually meeting the horse’s vitamin and mineral requirements (despite being marketed as doing so) so I have discussed some alternative supplements that would ensure the Kevin’s diet is properly balanced.

The vets advised appropriate medication for Kevin which is clearly important to address his current issues. The tweaks to the ration and closer monitoring of his forage intake, should help identify any possible contributing factors and are key for his long-term management.

For more information about Dengie’s feeds or for help and advice on all aspects of feeding call the Dengie Feedline: 01621 841188 or complete our Feed Advice Form.