Monday, January 7, 2008

Gastric Ulcers in Horses

The only way to tell if your horse has ulcers is to have him checked by a veterinarian with a three-meter endoscope that can get into the horse's stomach," says Murray. In this way the veterinarian can detect whether a horse does, indeed, have ulcers. He also can see how severe they are.

Prior to submitting to an endoscopic examination for ulcers, a horse will have his food withheld for about 12 hours, and he won't be allowed to drink water for about six hours before the exam. Then the veterinarian will insert the flexible endoscope through the horse's esophagus and into his stomach, where the veterinarian will view any ulcers.

"The treatment of ulcers is important because it is essential to use a treatment that will really work," Murray says. "The best, and most useful treatment at the moment of EGUS is omeprazole, which is available under the brand name of Gastrogard for horses." (For people, omeprazole is available under the trade name Prilosec.)

Within the body, omeprazole works by shutting down some of the stomach cells' ability to produce large quantities of hydrochloric acid, thus giving an equine ulcer time to heal. In contrast, oral antacids like Maalox and Mylanta work to neutralize stomach acid that already has been produced.

A third type of medication, known as an H2 blocker, competes with the compound histamine, which is naturally secreted by body tissues, so that it cannot stimulate stomach cells to produce acid. H2 blockers include cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac) and famotidine (Pepcid AC).

Murray chooses to use omeprazole for three reasons: First, it is the only treatment for EGUS currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Secondly, the drug shuts down acid secretion by knocking out the acid pumps, as opposed to competing with the stimulant. Third, omeprazole is easiest to administer than other drugs. A paste that comes in a tube, omeprazole is given once a day.

Michael J. Murray, DVM, professor and Adelaide C. Riggs Chair in Equine Medicine at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg, Virginia.

From Dressage Today magazine.

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