Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) has been widely discussed in the equine world over recent years. It is now well known that EGUS is a significant problem in the ridden horse population with sport horses having a prevalence of up to 75% when in work and 36% when not in training; and thoroughbred racehorses having a prevalence of 94-100% when in training and up to 55% when not working. What is less well known is that in the pleasure/leisure horse population, even when in low levels of work at home, carry a prevalence of 11%. It is no surprise therefore, that owners are greatly concerned about this condition and the effect it can have on our horses.
EGUS is a collective term for two distinctly different diseases affecting the same structure, the stomach. This is incredibly clever and complex structure has two separate halves - the upper squamous portion and the lower glandular portion. The degree of acidity increases towards the bottom of the stomach, thus it follow that the glandular part of the stomach is far more resilient against acid damage than the squamous part. It also makes sense that ulceration affected the squamous regions (Equine Squamous Gastric Ulceration Syndrome: ESGUS) occurs due to acid splashing, commonly at exercise and associated with high concentrate, low fibre diets. Likewise, ulceration affecting the glandular regions (Equine Glandular Gastric Ulceration Syndrome: EGGUS) occurs due to failures in the normally robust and effective defence mechanisms to cope with acid exposure.
Both disease processes can result in similar clinical presentations and signs commonly reported by owners include poor performance; dull coat; aggression around eating; reduced appetite; girthing pain; resentment of rugging or tacking up; recurrent (often mild) colic; change in temperament. Similarly, both syndromes can be diagnosed using the same technique - gastroscopy. Gastroscopy is the use of a flexible 3m endoscope to look at the inside of the stomach lining. By doing so we are able to assess the identify the presence, extent, severity and location of ulceration. Where needed it is also possible to perform biopsies of the stomach lining or ulcer beds. As with all of our diagnostics, this can be performed at your yard or at our clinic. Your horse or pony must be starved for at least 16 hours (overnight) prior to the procedure, so often clients find this more convenient at the clinic to minimise the stress at breakfast time. We will happily hospitalise your horse or pony the night before the gastroscopy the following morning to minimise stress around morning feeding on the yard and avoid you travelling your anxious, hungry horse.
There are several medications involved in the management of EGUS and these are adjusted depending on the extent, severity and location of the ulcers, specifically whether the horse is suffering from ESGUS, EGGUS or both syndromes. Squamous ulcers tend to form and heal faster than glandular ones; but it is not uncommon for a horse to be suffering to a different extent in both locations.
Your vet will discuss any abnormal findings with you and then create a bespoke management plan; not just regarding recommended medications, but reviewing the horse or pony's management, work load and exercise regime to provide you with an holistic approach to this troublesome disease.
We regularly run gastroscopy clinics and discounted fees may apply. If you have any questions, require advice about EGUS or which to enquire about an upcoming gastroscopy clinic, please contact us.