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Could Your Horse Have Gastric Ulcer Syndrome?

Many horses and foals are affected by Equine Gastric Ulceration Syndrome (EGUS). To help horse owners understand the symptoms, causes and treatment options available, Zoetis offers a helpful advisory leaflet, which is available from your equine vet.

EGUS is a serious and common condition,1,2 with approximately 90% of racehorses, 60% of performance horses, 37% of leisure horses and 50% of foals shown to be affected.2,3,4 The condition is associated with injury to the inner lining of the oesophagus, stomach and upper part of the intestine.2 Horses produce a steady flow of stomach acid to help digestion.1 As a protective mechanism, their naturally acidic stomach contents are buffered by alkaline saliva produced in response to regular eating and by the food itself.2 Domestication of horses, particularly stabling and restriction of grazing, has reduced the time horses spend eating, resulting in prolonged periods when the stomach is empty, causing reduced production of saliva. In addition, feeding grain (rather than fibre) can produce types of acid which contribute to the already acidic environment of the stomach.1

The usual signs of EGUS may include poor appetite, poor body condition, poor performance, changes in attitude and acute and recurrent colic. In adult horses, clinical signs may appear or progress as training intensity, speed and workload increase.2 However, in some horses, the signs may be vague. In foals the signs may be very subtle and progress rapidly so it is important to contact your vet immediately if you have any concerns.2

There are many risk factors that may cause horses or foals to suffer from gastric ulcers. These include stress, intense exercise, a high-grain diet, intermittent feeding, inappropriate management and other illnesses.1,2 The only accurate way to definitively diagnose or monitor EGUS is by gastroscopy,1 which involves a vet examining your horse’s oesophagus, stomach and upper part of the intestine using a gastroscope.

Wendy Talbot, vet at Zoetis, said: “Equine Gastric Ulceration Syndrome is a serious and common condition. However, once diagnosed it can usually be treated very effectively with orally administered therapy to allow ulcer healing. If you think your horse could be suffering from gastric ulcers, it’s important to contact your vet immediately”.

To find out more about equine gastric ulceration syndrome, ask your vet for a copy of the new Zoetis information leaflet.


1 Bell RJ, et al. Equine gastric ulcer syndrome in adult horses: a review. NZ Vet J 2007; 55 (1): 1-12.
2 Picavet M-Th. equine gastric ulcer syndrome. Proceedings of the First European Equine Nutrition & Health Congress. February 9 2002. Antwerp Zoo, Belgium.
3 Murray MJ, et al. Gastric ulcers in horses: A comparison of endoscopic findings in horses with and without clinical signs. Equine Vet J 1989; 7(Suppl): 68-72.
4 Murray MJ, et al. Prevalence of gastric lesions in foals without signs of gastric disease: an endoscopic survey. Equine Vet J 1990; 22(1): 6-8.