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Research on Algae for Horses with UlcersBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · April 4, 2017

Treatment options and management strategies to help horses fight or prevent stomach ulcers exist, yet the ideal solution to ridding horses of these uncomfortable, niggling nuisances remains elusive. Could a high-algae supplement finally be the reprieve horse owners are looking for?

“Current options for handling ulcers, widely referred to as equine gastric ulcer syndrome or EGUS, include pharmaceutical drug administration, such as FDA-approved omeprazole products, nutritional supplements, and management changes,” remarked Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist.

Despite these research-driven recommendations, some horses still suffer from EGUS. As a result, researchers continue to search for alternate solutions. One area of interest is algae.

“According to a group of researchers from New Zealand*, some forms of algae contain high levels of minerals, especially calcium, that may buffer stomach acid, helping stomachs heal,” explained Crandell.

After offering ten horses diagnosed with EGUS 40 g/day of a proprietary algae supplement containing 32% organic calcium for 30 days, the study authors found the following:

  • The average ulceration score before algae supplementation was 2.2 ± 0.75 (based on the recommended EGUS-scoring system that grades ulcers from 0 to 4);
  • All horses showed a significant improvement in ulcer score; and
  • After 30 days, seven horses had a score of zero (fully healed, no evidence of further ulceration) and two had a score of one (some residual inflammation or keratosis in areas of healed ulcers).

This study involved no change in regular diet or management, meaning that the only change was the addition of the supplement. The researchers concluded “the trial demonstrated that feeding an organic form of high-calcium algae reduced ulceration in horses.”

As exciting as these results may be to owners of horses with gastric problems, experts remind us to proceed with caution.

“Not all nutritional supplements are safe and effective. In fact, some algae products can even be dangerous,” Crandell said. “KER offers several products to support gastrointestinal health, including RiteTrac. This product quickly neutralizes excessive gastric acid, protecting the stomach lining and restoring the normal gastric environment.”

In Australia, horse owners can look for these research-proven products.

*Moir, T., J. O'Brien, S. R. Hill, et al. 2016. The influence of feeding a high calcium, algae supplement on gastric ulceration in adult horses. Journal of Applied Animal Nutrition. 4:e8.