Horse Ulcer Questions

You list soybean oil as a treatment for ulcers. Can corn or canola oil be used instead’

Dr. Miller responds: This is an excellent question.? The reason that soybean oil is chosen is that it has an omega-6 to omega-3 fatty-acid ratio that favors joint health as well as ulcer healing.??High omega-6:omega-3 ratios are associated with inflammation, whereas lower ratios do the opposite.? The closer we can get to a 1:1 ratio of omega-6:omega-3, the less inflammation we cause in our horses? joints and GI tracts.

As you can see from the chart, canola oil and soybean oil are pretty good at getting close to the 1:1 ideal ratio for anti-inflammatory effect, whereas corn oil is really out of balance for what we desire.

Flaxseed?oil has an outstanding ratio, but remember, Horse Journal always considers price and availability when making recommendations, which is why we mentioned soybean oil.? it’s usually available in large quantities for a decent price (Costco had 3 gallons for $12.)

Therefore, to answer your question,?soybean oil, canola oil or flaxseed oil would be great choices for your horse.? Corn oil may promote inflammation in the body and therefore should be lower on your list of choices.


I appreciated your article on gastric ulcers, as it’s such an important topic that many horse enthusiasts don’t know about. There is a distinction between gastric ulcers and hindgut ulcers with diagnosis (more difficult with hindgut ulcers) and treatment being different for each.? Do you plan to follow up this first article with one on hindgut ulcers (or what some may refer to as hindgut inflammation)’

Dr. Miller responds: Indeed, there is a distinction between gastric ulcers (in the stomach) and colonic ulcers (which commonly occur in the right dorsal colon).? While the causes are thought to be similar, such as stress or prolonged NSAID administration, the diagnosis and treatments for each differ greatly.

No matter what, both conditions are serious because they create a constant, chronic source of pain for your horse and often result in repetitive colic.? However, in a way, gastric ulcers are the easier of the two to have.? This is because they can be easily diagnosed by scoping, and there is an excellent medication on the market to treat them (Gastrogard).? On the contrary, ulceration of the right dorsal colon is difficult to diagnose and to treat.

Why?are colonic ulcers difficult to diagnose’? Because we don’t have a scope that is made to get into the colon and look for them.? Therefore, we rely on?a few other diagnostic modalities to help us get closer to a?diagnosis.

For instance, abdominal ultrasound can measure the thickness of the colon wall.? While not always synonymous with colonic ulceration,?a finding of a thickened colon wall does suggest colitis, or inflammation in the colon.? Also, bloodwork can sometimes give us a hint that a problem is occurring in the colon, although not always, so it is more or less a needle in a haystack.

Finally, full-on abdominal exploritory surgery and colon biopsy can give a difinitive diagnosis of right dorsal?colitis and ulceration, but at a price!?Surgery?is expensive, and putting a horse under anesthesia and then waking it up is not without risks.

Why?are?colonic ulcers difficult to treat’?Because it is difficult to get medications to that area.? For instance, omeprazole, which shuts off the acid pumps in the stomach, works brilliantly on gastric ulcers but has no beneficial effect on colonic ulcers.??This is because there?are no acid pumps in the colon.? Finding medications that?can get into that region of the body is both?expensive and sometimes logistically impossible, because horses just won?t gulp down a whole gallon of Pepto-Bismol!

No matter what, horses with chronic GI issues?need to be worked up ?from stem to stern? since there are myriad locations in the GI tract where problems can occur.? For those of us who suffer from gastric issues?such as chronic heartburn, or from colon problems like colitis, we?can commiserate with these poor horses!? We owe?it to them to address any GI issues that they may be having.


I just finished reading your ulcer article, and I was shocked that you missed one of the biggest stressors for horses today. Pain!

When humans hurt a foot, ankle or knee, they use crutches, sit down a lot and put up their feet. Horses, in contrast, must stand on their feet all day, and if stalled, they can’t even move around enough to get proper blood-flow to their joints.

Any horse that isn?t acting quite right or who doesn’t cooperate with his or her owner/rider should be evaluated for an underlying pain problem, as well as for the secondary effects such as ulcers and compensation injuries.

Multiple areas of pain (such as osteoarthritis) are hard to pinpoint because the horse can’t limp, but it doesn’t mean the horse is sound and pain-free. Please continue to advise readers that pain is big deal for horses and, while they don’t cry like we do, they aren?t immune to its effects.

Dr. Miller responds: Thank you so much for your valuable and well-written comments.? I completely agree with your reminder, and so does research and science!

As I mentioned in the article, any source of stress can lead to gastric ulcers.? In my mind, that includes chronic pain, which includes everything from minor aches to extreme discomfort.? But it’s important to remind readers of that, since some of us do not think about life from the horse’s point of view in determining what can cause stress.

While we work hard at HJ to help our readers find good products and best prices, we also strive to help them truly understand their horses.? You made a valuable contribution to that goal in illuminating how difficult it can be to live with pain that nobody seems to notice.

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