October of 2013 my Friesian gelding, Douwe, colicked and I frantically tried to figure out the cause. He was eating fine, he looked great health-wise, but he hadn't been feeling good under saddle. We had been training for an independent film that we shot at the end of September (2013) that involved cantering up hills and through fields. Not particularly difficult training, but I learned he was dealing with pain in his kidneys so the exercise and anticipation caused an ulcer. He had been feeling slightly off in his right hind, nothing that I would consider lame but something I noticed. I thought he might need a chiropractor because his hips do tend to go out sometimes. I learned that lameness in the right hind can come from a stomach ulcer because the pain will be more towards the right side. I have learned a lot about ulcers, because Douwe did not show typical symptoms and he stoic and hard to read, like many Friesians. People have asked me what I have done to treat him and I wanted to share some products and resources that might be helpful.
I didn't want to trailer Douwe to a vet clinic to be scoped because that would require a long trailer ride, which would cause him more stress. The downside was that my equine insurance wouldn't cover the cost of treatment if he wasn't scoped.
I was able to get confirmation with a saliva test (Computer Electrodermal Screening) and his blood test also showed signs of a stomach ulcer.
Slight lameness in the right hind.
Difficulty going forward and bending.
Poor performance and a depressed attitude.
He did not show some of the classic signs, which include: girthiness, finicky eating or not eating, poor coat or weight loss.
I changed his diet and put him on Omeprazole. After three days of GastroGard my vet recommended trying the less expensive version of Omeprazole and using that for the rest of the month. The first day I gave him the "cheaper" version he became very bloated and I knew he was in distress. I stayed with him all afternoon and watched him closely. I did not give him any more of the Omeprazole.
I tried Ranitidine, which is another ulcer medication. It is less expensive, but you need to give the pills 2-3 times a day in the feed instead of a paste that lasts 24 hours. Douwe seemed to respond well to it and I treated him for 6 weeks, tapering him off at the end. I had him re-tested recently at the end of March and it showed that his stomach ulcer and kidneys were almost healed and that he did not need any more medication!
Natural Treatments & Supplements:
Here are a few products I used in addition to the Ranitidine.
- Aloe Vera Juice- 1 cup a day from November to February. This was recommended by my chiropractor/vet and she said it helps to calm the stomach. I bought jugs of it at my local health food store but you can also get it at Walmart or a local pharmacy.
- SmartGut Ultra- started in November and will stay on this supplement from SmartPak. I really like this supplement because it has everything recommended in it. You can read the list of ingredients and purchase it here...https://www.smartpakequine.com/smartgut-ultra-pellets--10990p
- Raw Pumpkin Seeds- one handful each day from November to January. I really liked giving him these but they were a little expensive to get from the health food store.
- Oat Flour- 1/2 cup a day from November to March. Oat flour is very good for the horse's hind gut in case they have an ulcer there instead of the stomach. I purchased this at the local health food store.
- Alfalfa Pellets- I feed him the pellets instead of grain. I took him off the organic oats I was feeding him and replaced it with the pellets. I also gave him 2 cups of pellets before I rode him to make sure his stomach had food in it to keep the stomach acids from splashing around, which can cause an ulcer.
- Beet Pulp- We soak beet pulp pellets overnight to feed morning and night. The beet pulp works great in the winter to give them extra water and to mix in the supplements.
- ProBios- I had him on the extra probiotics while he was getting the medications. You can purchase ProBios at Tractor Supply or any tack store. Good for any horse to help digestion.
What experiences have you had with ulcers? How did you treat them? Please leave a comment below and feel free to share this post!