Friday, October 17, 2014

17th October, 2014 Is Your Horse Guarding A Secret?

Started off today at Lorraine's where Evie (Evita) was being given a gastroscopy by renowned expert Tim Brazil. Sadly (or perhaps not sadly because it explains a lot) she turned out to have a significant area of grade 3 (out of 4) ulcers below the acid line. This is similar to the horse that I also observed being gastroscoped a few weeks ago.

Setting up the equipment
The sedative appears to be working - on me!
The endoscope is inserted through the nose - it goes very smoothly
 In both cases the owner had an inkling that gastric ulcers could be the underlying problem behind their horses' behaviour which included aggression, ambivalence about being touched, and girthiness but the list of symptoms is vast. I am always pleased when an owner, sometimes with a little push from me, takes the time and expense to get a proper diagnosis where gastric ulcers could be an issue for their horse. With such a range of symptoms (see below) and horses reacting very differently to all grades of ulcers, it is difficult to expose owners to a large veterinary bill for something that is merely a suspicion. Nevertheless, it is a well known fact that a high proportion of horses, especially those that are kept in for any significant period of timeeach day, will have gastric ulcers. 

These grade three ulcers were below the acid line and need to be treated using omeprazole (such as Gastrogard) and potentially antibiotics. For the technically minded I am told that they are glandular ulcers in the antrum and around the pylorus of ghetto gastric outflow.
These minor grade one ulcers in the top (squamous) section of the stomach would not have merited treatment on their own. 

I hope soon to be able to provide clients with a full checklist with possible symtoms, preventative measures, and good treatment for gastric ulcers. Most insurance companies will not cover horses for the treatment of gastric ulcers unless they have been formally diagnosed by a vet (and only an endoscope will give a definitive answer) nor will they cover a diagnosis if the treatment could have been pre-existing at purchase.

The symptoms of gastric ulcers are (and this list is not exhaustive!):

Poor appetite
Poor condition
Poor performance - including resistance
Poor coat
Pot belly
Colic symptoms
Crib biting
Aggressive behaviour

It's hard to love a grumpy horse but you can feel a great deal more sympathy when you know what the horse has been enduring. It's also not funny when you have only recently bought the horse and not only do you think the ulcers must have been there before but the insurers then agree with you and refuse to pay up! As a trainer I am much happier working with a horse when I know that all physical causes for the behaviour have been eliminated. It's hard to ask a horse to give up behaviour that is it's way of expressing pain. It will be good to hear whether treatment has a positive impact on these two horses behaviour.