Serving Silicon Valley, the Peninsula and the East Bay
Stall Side Test for Equine Stomach and Colon Ulcers
Veterinarians and horse owners often wonder if a horse has an ulcer when they see a horse with chronic low grade colics, a horse that becomes girthy, or develops a poor appetite, has a poor attitude towards training, a dull hair coat, decreased performance or becomes a stall kicker, among other issues. Now a stall side test than can give you results in 10 minutes and costs only $50 is available.
Ulcers are a big issue among horses. For gastric (stomach) ulcers, research has shown that the incidence ranges from 30%-60% for non-racetrack performance horses, to 89% in racehorses. Among the theories as to why stomach ulcers are so common in horses is that while their stomach secretes acid constantly to aid in digestion 24 hours/day, our stalled horse typically are only fed 2-3 times per day, so they eat only a few hours/day. What that means is that there a many hours per day where acid is being produced with no food to buffer the acid present. Another theory is that training, such as running and jumping, moves the acid around in the stomach to areas that are less protected and so more vulnerable to ulcer development.
Colonic ulcers are also very common. There is no practical way to visualize colonic ulcers in a live horse. However, in one study on 180 performance horses that were examined after death, 67% had colonic ulcers.
To diagnose stomach ulcers before now, testing has been limited to placing a 9-foot long scope into the stomach to look for ulcers and there really has been no test for colonic ulcers. Unfortunately, the 9-foot scopes are mostly centered at referral hospitals and the procedure can cost over $500.00.
As an alternative, to infer a diagnosis of gastric ulcers you can give your horse a 10-day trial of the medication omeprazole. This drug stops acid production in a horse’s stomach and is used to treat ulcers in the stomach. A horse with gastric ulcers will typically show improvement within that 10-day period and so a diagnosis and a recommendation for further treatment is made based on response to therapy. This approach is also over $400, as the most effective form of omeprozole medication is costly. The best treatment for gastric ulcers is to continue treatment at a full dose for 28 days and ½ dose for 28 additional days.
Now there is another very significant alternative diagnostic. Recently, a new stall side-test became available that uses small sample of your horse’s manure to look for blood in the manure – specifically hemoglobin and albumin. When positive, this double test can also give you a very good idea whether an ulcer might be either gastric or colonic. So, while an endoscopic exam may reveal gastric ulcers, it will not say anything about colonic ulcers. Now we have a test that can give an indication of both conditions when positive and help locate where the ulcers may be and results are available in 10 min at a reasonable cost.
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