Horse Health Q&A: Equine Ulcers - Signs, Symptoms & Natural Remedies for Prevention & Treatment

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What Causes Ulcers in Horses?

Over the past decade, many scientists and veterinarians have studied the multiple causes of ulcers in horses, which can affect horses of all ages  -  including normal healthy foals. The findings have commonly concluded that ulcers are mainly the result of “un-natural” management practices including:

  • Un-natural feeding practices
  • Un-natural concentrated bag feeds
  • The use of drugs to treat many disorders, including long term use of NSAIDs for pain, or even antibiotics
  • Stressful showing schedules
  • Showing or training horses having no food – or the wrong kind of food - in their stomach

Tips for Natural Ulcer Prevention

The best ulcer prevention tip is to simply allow your horse to be a horse. Try to implement as many of the following prevention tips as possible. Your horse will thank you.

  • Allow play time, including maximum turn out time with other horses
  • Limit the use of drugs, especially Bute and Banamine, unless absolutely necessary
  • Use natural remedies or herbs for pain control when possible
  • Avoid allopathic ulcer drugs as much as possible. They change the natural pH of the horse's digestive tract
  • Feed a more natural diet, including having hay in front of your horse 24/7. Use of slow feeders allows the horse to eat small amounts often, which prevents digestive acids from burning their stomachs
  • Minimize stress, drugs, vaccinations, and toxins (especially chemical wormers and fly sprays)
  • If possible, also filter the horse's water
  • Always make sure your horse has just eaten before you train or show

Signs & Symptoms – How Can I Tell if My Horse Might Have Ulcers?

Although some of the following could also be general signs for other medical conditions, you may want to consider ulcers if you see any of these signs or symptoms:

Ulcer Signs & Symptoms for Foals

  1. Often interrupt nursing
  2. Grind their teeth
  3. Produce excess saliva
  4. May have diarrhea
  5. May exhibit signs of intermittent “colic-like” symptoms, such as rolling onto their back

Ulcer Signs & Symptoms for Mature & Older Horses

  1. Poor appetite, when before it may have been robust
  2. Starting to have picky eating habits
  3. Poor body condition or weight loss
  4. Low grade non-specific colic
  5. Changes in attitude or performance
  6. Back pain - or pain in the area of the cinch/girth, including pinning ears when being saddled
  7. Brown gastric reflux fluid, which may also indicate the presence of bleeding ulcers

I Think My Horse is Showing Signs. How Will My Vet Diagnose & Treat an Ulcer?

Vets have diagnostic equipment where they can “scope” the horse from each “end” as well as internally all the way through. Thankfully, there are new fecal tests your vet can perform prior to scoping to determine if it is even indicated.  Fecal testing is less stressful for your horse and less expensive for you.

If your horse does have to be scoped, the procedure is usually done at a vet hospital with an overnight stay to ensure your horse’s intestinal tract is empty and no food or water has been given for 12 hours prior.

When ulcers are found, most vets treat horses with Ulcer Guard or Gastro Guard for 1 to 2 months and it can run up to $1,200 per month to treat a horse without guarantee of cure. This conventional treatment also changes the pH of your horse's digestive tract and kills the beneficial bacteria necessary for proper digestion.

What Do You Recommend Feeding a Horse to Help Prevent Ulcers?

If possible, give your horse a slow feeder with hay in front of them all the time. This mimics horses' natural grazing behavior and can help to prevent ulcers in the first place. 

Horses who may have ulcers or are prone to ulcers do best with bucket feed that has fat (rice bran meal and flax), beet pulp (Speedi Beet) and soaked hay pellets along with a buffer like CA-Mg, which Earth Song Ranch offers. 

What we have found over the last 10+ years is that your horse may need to avoid “bag” feed, such as Purina, Nutrena, or Triple Crown as there are too many chemicals and additives that can upset the already delicate digestive health of these horses.  Instead, use soaked hay pellets like Timothy as a carrier for herbs and vitamins. When this change is made, we have found the horses improve greatly and better maintain their gut health.

I also strongly recommend EquineZyme Plus with probiotics to keep your horses gut healthly and contains colostrum which will help soothe the acids in the stomach.  (See below about using herbs to help prevent and/or support).

Always make sure before you train or show that your horse has just eaten.

Are there Herbs that Can Help Prevent Ulcers and/or Relieve the Pain of Ulcers?

Yes. The number one herb to help heal - as well as to relieve some of the pain of - digestive ulcers is Slippery Elm.

Alone it is a good choice, as it coats the intestinal tract allowing it a chance to heal. You can also add Aloe Vera gel with that in a bucket feed. This combination can give a horse with active ulcers some relief as feed stuffs digest. 

In helping many horses over the years, I have found a specific combination of several herbs that work synergistically together to help a horse who has ulcers or is prone to ulcers. We at Earth Song Ranch recommend our Tummy Tamer blend, and it has been a favorite natural approach to helping horses with ulcers for 12+ years.  

Are there Herbal Blends that Can Be Used for Ulcer Prevention and Healing?

Yes. There are a couple of companies besides Earth Song Ranch who do herbal blends for ulcers now.

Our Tummy Tamer blend includes powdered aloe vera leaf, Slippery Elm, and other soothing and anti-inflammatory herbs. Over the 12+ years we've produced Tummy Tamer, we've had a lot of happy horse owners report that they were able to take their horse off of the veterinary meds and save a lot of money by following our ulcer advice. In fact, Tummy Tamer has become one of our best sellers over the years as horse owners and guardians seek out alternative, natural approaches.

What is in the Tummy Tamer Ulcer Support Blend?

Tummy Tamer blends a rich yeast culture with the herbs because it has probiotics and a small amount of rice bran. To that we add:

  • Slippery Elm to help coat the digestive tract
  • Fenugreek to sooth the gastric disorders
  • Ginger to soothe any of the nausea a horse may feel
  • Licorice Root, which reduces gastric acid secretions and gastric inflammatory conditions
  • Marshmallow for gastric ulcerations and colitis type symptoms
  • Peppermint and Spearmint, which are anti-spasmodic and natural digestive aides to soothe and relax the digestive tract
  • Chamomile and Valerian to calm a stressed horse and help with any stomach cramping
  • Yarrow flowers, fennel and fenugreek, lemon balm and some white willow bark

Do You Offer A Ulcer Support Blend for Show Horses?

Yes! We also offer a special Tummy Tamer Show blend for customers who show their horses. Tummy Tamer Show Formula leaves out the Valerian, Chamomile or other herbs that might be tested at a competition.

The Ulcer 911 Support Kit

Earth Song Ranch offers a package of the products we recommend here called Ulcers 911 Support Kit. It contains Tummy Tamer, EquineZyme Plus, and CA-Mg Buffer - all at a 27% savings over purchasing the products individually. Two of the products come with free shipping so there is only shipping on Tummy Tamer!  You also receive a FREE nutritional consultation reviewing your feeding program and supplements!

Disclaimer

The information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from a veterinarian or other health care professional, and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment.  A health care professional should be consulted before starting any diet or supplementation program, before administering any medication, alternative, herbal blends et al or if your horse has a health problem. Do not discontinue any other medical treatments without first consulting your health care professional. ©Copyright 2017. Earth Song Ranch. All rights reserved.

Further Reading - Published Articles by Earth Song Ranch

Questions? We're Here to Help

We know choosing the right natural supplement for your horse can seem daunting. Earth Song Ranch is dedicated to educating our customers because we want you to make the best choice for your horse and your unique needs. 

You'll find a variety of information in our published articles and archived newsletters here on our site. But sometimes, you just need to talk a situation out. For those times, we offer private phone consultations. 

Ulcer Prevention & Diet Consultations

We offer diet and nutritional consulting for those of you supporting or suspecting a horse with ulcers - or looking to prevent ulcers from developing.  Consultations are available in the following increments. First time customers who book an hour consultation receive $25 off your first order of $100 or more.

  • 15 minutes - $25
  • 30 minutes - $45
  • 1 hour - $75

Go here to purchase a phone consultation.

$25 Off

Coupon

All first-time customers who book a 1 hour phone consultation receive $25 off their first order of $100 or more.                           Book your consultation >

About the Author

Jessica Lynn writes articles for various national and international horse publications.  She is an Equine Nutritionist and the owner of Earth Song Ranch, a feed & supplement manufacturer based in Southern California.  Jessica has been involved in alternative health care, herbs, homeopathy, alternative health and nutrition for almost 40 years. Contact Jessica at Jessica@earthsongranch.com or phone 951-514-9700. Her web site, www.earthsongranch.com, offers numerous published articles and resources on natural health for horses, dogs, and cats.

 Earth Song Ranch natural & herbal products are featured on Fox's Horse Talk Show with Louisa Barton
Earth Song Ranch Tummy Tamer
and Ulcer 911 Support Kit were featured
on Fox's The Horse Talk Show.

 

Recommended Products

Tummy Tamer
Natural Ulcer Support for Horses - With Aloe Vera Leaf Powder

Ulcer 911 Support Kit
An Affordable, Natural Herbal Probiotic, Buffered Ulcer Support Alternative

 

Customer Feedback

"In 2016, I purchased a project horse. He was already a high level dressage horse showing very well.  At the beginning of 2017 he started to show signs of being uncomfortable. When being groomed or saddled, if anything would touch his sides, he would bite the air and try to kick the person closest to him.  Jessica Lynn, of Earth Song Ranch, has always been my go to for natural alternatives, so I phoned her and she suggested doing 2 weeks of gastro guard while she blended some Tummy Tamer and sent a bucket of CA-Mg Buffer, and we made a small adjustment in his diet as well.  I am here to tell you, that my boy is fine and doing great and in training, we continue him on with the Ca-Mg Buffer and the Tummy Tamer Show formula and could not be any happier with the results!  We sing Jessica’s praises from the barn tops!  Thank you so much Earth Song Ranch for your awesome and wonderful herbal blends!
- A.L., Wellington, FL

 

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