Your Horse Has Ulcers… How To Start Healing Them Right Away

Why Your Horse Has Ulcers

Candace Pert reminded me of an important fact.  Animals just don’t get ulcers from stress, they get ulcers from a certain kind of stress.  The stress involved with the feeling of no control over their environment.  It’s no wonder horses have such a prevalence of ulcers.  Not only do we put them in the most unnatural environments but then we take all control away from them.

They don’t get to say when they go out, whom they get to go out with, when they get ridden or when they get to eat.  It’s all controlled and then on top of it all we change their environment without warning.  For instance, we take them to races, shows and competitions, add or take away pasture mates or change their daily schedule.   This kind of life is nothing like their wild counterparts.

So what should we do about it?  Realize that life for the domestic horse can be stressful and they get ulcers.

In fact, up to 60% of show horses have ulcers and up to 90% of race horses have ulcers.

Even when diagnosed and treated properly, ulcers lesions can take over a month to heal thoroughly.  To complicate matters worse, many horses get recurring ulcers.

Signs & Symptoms

The usual signs of ulcers include:

  • Poor appetite
  • Acting hungry but not wanting to eat
  • Weight loss and/or poor body condition
  • Poor hair coat
  • Mild colic
  • Mental dullness or attitude changes
  • Poor performance
  • Lying down more than normal
  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Teeth grinding (especially when ridden)
  • Touchy sides for both riding and/or grooming
  • Girthy

How To Treat Ulcers

Conventional Treatment

For starters, there are general management issues that can be addressed to both treat and prevent ulcers.

  1. Increasing the amount of roughage in the diet.
  2. Increasing the number of feedings and increase the amount of time the horse is actually eating.
  3. Don’t let the horse’s stomach get empty.
  4. Have the horse on pasture 24 hours a day.  The more the horse is out walking around and grazing the better.
  5. Avoid stressful situations if possible.
  6. Avoid feed changes.

In addition, there are medicines to treat ulcers.  Those medicine are:

  1. Omeprazole: the ingredient in Gastrogard and Ulcergard.  Omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor meaning that it blocks the glandular cells in the stomach from producing hydrochloric acid.
  2. Ranitidine: an H2 antagonist known to be good for stomach and hindgut ulcers.  This medication must be given 3 times per day.
  3. Cimetidine: also an H2 antagonist.  Cimetidine is best as a temporary solution and relief from the ulcers but has not been shown to aid in healing.
  4. Sucralfate: a viscous compound that will coat the ulcers like a bandage to facilitate healing.  This should also be given 3 times per day and is usually given with ranitidine.

Horses should not be kept on ulcer medications for long term.  Decreasing the acid in the stomach can lead to B12 deficiency, poor digestion, hind gut issues plus calcium and magnesium imbalances.


Alternative Treatment

While scientific evidence is usually lacking with alternative medicines and supplements, I think they are important to mention here because they are safe for long term use.  Most can be used to prevent ulcers once they are cleared with medication.  Here are some suggestions for daily prevention.

  • Probiotics and digestive enzymes to aid digestion.
  • Herbs such as slippery elm bark and marshmallow to coat the lining of the GI tract.
  • Papaya puree (such as found in Stomach Soother).  Papaya is also used for people with upset stomach.
  • Supplements like Succeed that help digestion in general.
  • Aloe Vera juice.
  • Organic apple cider vinegar.


It’s important to remember that treating ulcers and healing them takes time.  Ulcers can be very painful and can flare up under the slightest bit of stress.  This is one condition that should not be ignored.  Ulcers can cause long term health problems not just because of the pain and increased risk of colic but also because of the immune system that relies on a healthy gastrointestinal tract.  Chronic immune problems are so prevalent in horses today, make sure that ulcers aren’t one of the reasons why.  Get your horse treated today!


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