According to several reports, veterinarians have identified equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) in up to 40% of Quarter Horses and 93% of Thoroughbred racehorses. EGUS can lead to poor body condition, disruptions in training, impaired performance, colic, and other complications, some of them quite severe. While many veterinarians and owners use FDA-approved omeprazole (GastroGard or UlcerGard) to manage EGUS, nutritionists have speculated that other dietary supplements might assist with ulcer management.
At the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in Anaheim, Calif., Michelle Woodward, DVM, of Louisiana State University's School of Veterinary Medicine, described testing two commercially available feed supplements labeled to treat or prevent EGUS: Manufacturers market the powder product (Egusin SLH) as beneficial for horses with active gastric ulcers and a pelleted product (Egusin 250) for horses prone to EGUS based on lifestyle (i.e., stalled horses, or those performing or traveling).
Woodward suggested that these supplements might offer a more economical approach to managing ulcers than omeprazole treatment. The Egusin products contain similar ingredients including dried apple pectin pulp and lecithin, both compounds that are thought to help prevent EGUS. Egusin SLH has lower fiber and protein and higher fat content than Egusin 250. Both contain sodium and calcium bicarbonate, which could pose a problem for drug compliance in racing Thoroughbreds.
Over a five-week period, horses in the study received all treatments of both Egusin products. Following a thorough gastroscopic exam to check for the presence or absence of ulcers, veterinarians treated each horse for three weeks with one product, followed by a second exam. During the fourth week, the researchers deprived both treatment and control horses of hay for four 24-hour periods, each separated by a 24-hour period of normal feeding within the seven-day period (the horses still consumed their regular grain and supplement rations during the fourth week); this strategy is known to induce nonglandular gastric ulcers. Then they scoped the horses again and treated them for a fifth week without feed deprivation. Veterinarians completed a fourth gastroscopic exam at the end of the trial.
At each scoping, the researchers assigned each horse an EGUS score and evaluated bicarbonate levels in his venous blood-values less than or equal to 37 millimoles are acceptable doping thresholds for racing, said Woodward.
In all cases, the feed supplements induced no adverse effects. Of particular note is that by Day 28 (after the fourth week), researchers noted no significant differences comparing the treated horses and the controls. "But, after Day 28," Woodward remarked, "the treated horses had increased ulcer scores indicating that the feed deprivation induction model worked to produce ulcers. At Week 5, based on gastroscopic exam, both treated groups improved over the control horses."
In summary, Woodward advised that it might be necessary to feed Egusin products for at least five weeks before significant changes are seen in stomach health. She noted that horses consumed the pellets more readily than the powder and that both products were equally effective in healing ulcers after five weeks.
Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.