The Horse at Home is Still at Risk for Ulcers

Now that the show season is at hand, you’re probably aware of your competitive partner’s risk for ulcers. With two out of three performance horses affected, it’s as important as ever for horse owners to ensure their equine partners are at the peak health. But you may also be surprised to learn that even horses that don’t travel are at risk for ulcers.

“Wherever there is stress, there can be stomach ulcers,” says Hoyt Cheramie, DVM, MS, manager, Merial Large Animal Veterinary Services. “Horses may be stressed by everyday situations that don’t seem stressful to us, like spending large amounts of time in a stall or when their friends leave the barn.”

Risks for Your Horse at Home
Horses that stay home or rarely compete are not immune to stomach ulcers. Cheramie cites these situations as examples of what can cause them including:

  • Light training
  • Short-term travel
  • Trailering
  • Change in routine
  • Change in feed schedule
  • Limited turnout or grazing
  • Lay-up due to sickness or injury
  • Radio in the barn
  • Social regrouping

Cheramie notes that removing horses from their social group may be one of the major contributing factors to an increased incidence of stomach ulcers in those left at home.

“Off-site training and showing can cause a disruption in social groupings and can be anxiety-provoking for some,” Cheramie says. “Horses form strong emotional bonds with their stable-mates so when they are separated, it can be very upsetting for both horses.”

Social grouping disruptions are also more common when spring arrives, as it often heralds a busy time for everyone, especially those with broodmares. Foaling season means additional stress not only on mares and foals, but also for other horses as well due to increased activity in the barn at irregular hours.

Know the Signs of Ulcer Presence
“Stomach ulcers are prevalent across all breeds, disciplines and ages,” Cheramie says, adding that they can happen in as little as five days. “Because it is not so much the behavior but rather the change in behavior that signals the possibility of a physical problem, horse owners need to know what is normal for their horse and what is not.”

Watch out for clinical signs of ulcers, which include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss or poor body condition
  • Change in attitude for the worse
  • Recurrent colic
  • Dull hair coat
  • Less-than-optimal (poor) performance, resistance to work, difficulty training

However, Cheramie makes a point to say that some horses may not exhibit overt signs. If there is the slightest suspicion something is not quite right, it is better to call a veterinarian who can make an accurate diagnosis, which typically will involve performing an gastroscopy to provide a view of the stomach lining.

“‘Scoping’ is a procedure in which a long, flexible tube with a camera at the end is introduced through the nostril and passed to the throat and down the esophagus, into the stomach, which is then examined for the presence of ulcers,” Cheramie explains.

Ulcer Prevention: ULCERGARD (Omeprazole) Provides a Strong Solution
Omeprazole suppresses acid production at the source – the acid-producing proton pump in stomach cells. Because omeprazole works on the stomach, rather than in the stomach, to be effective, it must pass through the acidic stomach environment and into the intestines where it is absorbed into the bloodstream and brought back to the stomach cells. With fewer active pumps, the stomach produces enough acid to break down food, but not the excess acid that causes ulcers.

Available without a prescription, a single daily dose of ULCERGARD is the only proven and FDA-approved product with a patented formulation that protects the omeprazole from stomach acid to ensure it gets to the intestines to effectively prevent ulcers.

But when ulcers do form, a 28-day regimen of GASTROGARD (omeprazole) is the only FDA-approved product for treatment so that horses can continue with their training routine and protect that winning edge.

“Horses form strong emotional bonds with their stable-mates so that when they are separated, it can be very upsetting for both horses.”

Don’t let physical or emotional upsets tip the balance between wellness and the risk of ulcers making an untimely appearance. If your horse displays any signs of discomfort, contact your veterinarian for an evaluation.
ULCERGARD can be used in horses that weigh at least 600 pounds. Safety in pregnant mares has not been determined.

Caution: Safety of GASTROGARD in pregnant or lactating mares has not been determined.

About Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health
On January 1st, 2017, Merial became part of the Boehringer Ingelheim group. As the second largest animal health business in the world, Boehringer Ingelheim is committed to making the industry even better at improving animal health. With more than 10,000 employees worldwide, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health has products available in more than 150 markets and a global presence in 99 countries. For more information about Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, click here.

About Boehringer Ingelheim
Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, Boehringer Ingelheim operates presently with a total of some 50,000 employees worldwide. The focus of the family-owned company, founded in 1885, is on researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing new medications of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine. In 2015, Boehringer Ingelheim achieved net sales of about 14.8 billion euros. R&D expenditure corresponds to 20.3 per cent of net sales. For more information, please visit

Merial is now part of Boehringer Ingelheim.
®GASTROGARD and ULCERGARD are registered trademarks of Merial. ©2017 Merial, Inc., Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. EQUIUGD1704 (04/17)
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ULCERGARD Product Label
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