When we find a horse with minor signs of ulcers, we treat with Montmorillonite green clay as an absorbent. This product will absorb toxins and eases GI disorders. Montmorillonite is also a component of Succeed. If the horse has more major signs of ulceration in the digestive tract, we often will use Succeed. Succeed contains Oat Oil, which is rich in lipids and anti-oxidants. It also has Beta-glucan, which is a polysaccharide that moderates the release of sugars from the digestive system and stimulates the immune system. Beta- glucan also slows the transit of digest through the intestines, aiding digestion. Glutamine is one of the amino acids in Succeed. It supplies nitrogen to the immune cells of the intestinal mucosa, and reduces healing time. Threonine aids in wound healing and treats stress. Along with proline and serene, the threonine helps to make up mucus, which can protect the lining of the GI tract.
Leucine aids in glycogen synthesis, helping the muscles of the intestinal wall. Isoleucine helps the immune system, particularly in the colon. Lysine is important to GI healing and the formation of collagen. B vitamins, aid in blood synthesis and allows the horse to recover from an anemic state created by the ulcers. Yeast such as saccharomyces cerevisiae binds to pathogenic bacteria so that they can be flushed out of the intestinal tract, promotes the growth of beneficial microbes, and stimulates the immune system. It also encourages the growth of intestinal villi. Nucleotides in the product will improve the efficiency of cell repair. We usually recommend giving the horse Succeed for a minimum of two months, and often keep the horse on the product for six or more months.
A surprisingly high percentage of horses have ulcers. The horse was made to eat a slow, constant diet of roughage. Our feeding practices of only feeding once or twice a day and adding a highly concentrated grain component to his diet have resulted in ulcers in his digestive tract.
Ulcers are more common in performance horses subjected to the additional stress of hauling and competing and being stalled in many new surroundings. Studies have shown that the horse that remains at home can develop ulcers just from the stress of having his barn mate leave! Thus, it is our feeding practices that are the real culprit in causing the high incidence of ulcers in horses.
Many people know that a horse could be developing ulcers if he is getting more picky about eating his grain, eats a little and then walks away, has weight loss, has a dull hair coat, or is sensitive when you brush them over their abdomen. Other, lesser known, signs of ulcers could be decreased level of performance, failure to collect or get their hind end underneath themselves, stiffness in the shoulders, lameness, loss of the range of motion in joints, or grumpiness.
When an ulcer heals, it can create scar tissue and a stricture in the stomach or intestine which will restrict motion of the intestine and the spinal segment associated with it. The restriction in the intestine can result in colic, and the restriction in the spinal segment can restrict motion, and therefore performance.
When we evaluate a horse with an osteopathic exam, we can look for restriction in the spinal segments associated with either the stomach, or the small intestine, or the hind gut. By differentiating which spinal segments are restricted, we can develop a specific treatment based on the location of the ulcer.
Since most endoscopes will only reach to the horse’s stomach, and even the longest ones will barely reach the very front of the small intestine; it is good to have another way of telling if a horse has ulcers or not. Studies have shown that over half of equine ulcers occur in the hind gut, where an endoscope cannot reach. We will also use the Succeed Fecal test to confirm suspected ulcers. We find the test to be around 95% accurate.
Acupuncture points can also be used to confirm ulcers. The stomach meridian runs down the lower part of the brachiocephalicus muscle on the horse’s neck, and will be sensitive in a horse with ulcers. Other sensitive points are located on the horses ribs and chest.
The best way to prevent ulcers in your horse is to provide him with constant roughage. If your horse is a “fatty”, you can provide this roughage in a bag with small holes, requiring him to pull small pieces of hay out at a time. If he is on pasture, you can fit him with a grazing muzzle to slow his eating. Some studies show that adding 20% alfalfa to the horses diet can also help to prevent ulcers. Grain is one of the causes of ulcers. It moves too quickly through the horse’s digestive tract and takes the hydrochloric acid from the stomach with it into the small intestines and hindgut. This changes the pH in the intestines and kills off the good bacteria, which releases endotoxins when it is displaced from the gut wall. An overgrowth of bad bacteria that are less susceptible to the new lower pH will occur. These bad bacteria will damage the lining of the intestine and allow the toxins to enter the bloodstream. A “Leaky Gut” is born! Adding beet pulp, preferably the kind without molasses; can help slow the movement of the grain through the horses intestines.
Changes in hay or grain need to be made slowly, so that the good bacteria in your horses gut have time to adapt. We have developed a Colon Care program which evaluates your horse’s present bacterial state and then kills off the bad bacteria, after first stabilizing and conditioning the horse’s system to deal with the change. We then re-innoculate the horse’s intestines with good bacteria. This program takes several months to implement, but leaves the horse less prone to ulcers and with a healthy digestive tract, and thus, healthy lymphatic tissue and a healthy immune system. New research in human medicine has shown that you are only as healthy as your gut. Poor health often begins with the release of endotoxins into the bloodstream from a leaky gut.
The products used to treat ulcers are only band-aids in the horse’s over-all health. By doing the Colon Care program, you develop a healthy gut that does not need a band-aid.
Omeprazole, comprable to Prilosec in human medicine, blocks the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. It only works on ulcers that are located in the stomach. Given long term, this pH change can allow the overproduction of bad bacteria, such as salmonella, in the hindgut. Prilosec has been associated with a B12 deficiency in humans. We need to keep an eye on the B12 levels in horses that are on long term omeprazole.
Ranitidine is comprable to the human drug zantac. It needs to be given three times a day to be effective. It also blocks the production of hydrochloric acid, and seems to work both in the stomach and the intestines. Sucralfate acts to line the stomach and intestines with a buffering substance, and can be used with ranitidine for the treatment of hindgut ulcers. Sucralfate should also be given every 8 hours.
Succeed is is a product that I like to use to treat a horse with ulcers. It takes two to three weeks to really start working, so if the horse is having acute ulcer problems I will do an osteopathic adjustment to try and get the stress off of the body, start the horse on the program to strengthen his body to get ready for the Colon Care treatment, and add one of the drugs listed above temporarily if needed to control the acute problem. I will get the horse off drugs and onto just Succeed as soon as possible.
Stomach Soother is a product made from papaya that will sometimes help a horse who is having problems with his digestion. I do not mind having a horse on Succeed or Stomach Soother long term. These products do not change the pH in the stomach or intestines, so do not adversely effect the horses digestive process.
Other products that may be worth looking at include: Starting Gate by SBS equine, which will coat the ulcer and provide a “band-aid” over it; Ulc-Rid, an herbal formulation prepared by Equine Nutritional Consultants and sold by KV Vet supply, Equishure, a buffering agent made by Kentucky Equine Research, Nutrient Buffer, a calcium, magnesium, zinc product made by Vita Royal, and brewer’s yeast.