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Sourcing Supplements for Horses with Gastric UlcersBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · April 18, 2017

Why should you look to nutritional supplements and natural products to help prevent or manage equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) in horses? Based on a comprehensive review of literature, one group of equine veterinary researchers* suggested several reasons:

  1. FDA-approved medications can be expensive, especially with long-term use;
  2. Pharmaceutical agents require a prescription from your veterinarian;
  3. Gastric ulcers commonly recur once drug administration ceases, frequently resulting in the need for ongoing treatment;
  4. Long-term omeprazole use can cause a decrease in stomach fluid acidity, which negatively affects digestion; and
  5. Certain medications are restricted in performance and show horses, necessitating the use of alternative and complementary therapies.

EGUS refers to ulcerations of the lining of the esophagus, stomach (both the glandular and nonglandular parts), and the duodenum, the first segment of the small intestine. Omeprazole remains the drug of choice for both treating and preventing EGUS, but a large number of other medications frequently get thrown into the mix, such as antacids and stomach protectants.

Considering medication restrictions and adoption of “clean sport” philosophies, increased attention has been directed towards the nutritional management of EGUS, including nutritional supplements.

According to the review article, “a more comprehensive approach to therapy for EGUS includes determining and correcting the underlying cause, environmental management, dietary manipulation, and pharmacologic intervention.”

Researchers focused their review on the following ingredients:

  • Pectin is a plant-based product that forms a gel when exposed to acidic environments. It also binds bile acids, potentially protecting the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Lecithin, a type of fat called a phospholipid, reportedly decreases surface tension, though how exactly reducing surface tension at the junction between air and fluid in the stomach was not clearly explained.
  • The live yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, commonly used as a probiotic.
  • Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), a flowering plant native to cold-temperate regions of Europe and Asia, is rich in vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Dietary oils to alter the balance between pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Minerals such as zinc, known to promote healing of skin and to play an important role in immune function.

“Further research pertaining to these and other nutritional remedies will hopefully identify non-pharmaceutical means of managing an age-old problem in horses. Kentucky Equine Research (KER) offers several supplements, including RiteTrac and omega-3 fatty acid supplement EO•3 that help support the delicate lining of the gastrointestinal tract,” recommended Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist KER. Australian horse owners should look for these products to help maximize digestive health.

*Zavoshti, F.R., and F.M. Andrews. 2017. Therapeutics for equine gastric ulcer syndrome. Veterinary Clinics of North America. Equine Practice. 33(1):141-162.