Study: Diet Change Imperative For Ulcer Resolution In Horses

When a horse begins ulcer treatment, the way he is managed is often scrutinized; alleviating stress will hopefully mitigate ulcer recurrence. A new study out of Denmark shows that management changes alone may not be enough—adjustment to the horse’s diet should also be investigated.

A low-starch diet can be beneficial for a horse that has gastric ulcers, but diet as a whole is often overlooked when ulcers medication is prescribed. Dr. Nanna Luthersson created a study to highlight the necessity for  diet adjustment.

Luthersson used 58 horses that were diagnosed with ulcers. The horses were divided into two groups based on the severity of their lesions: 24 horses had moderate lesions, graded as 1 or 2 out of 4, and 34 horses had severe ulcerations, determined to be a 3 or a 4. The horses were placed into pairs based on similarities in diet, feeding times, management and workload.

At the beginning of the study, the horses with severe ulcers were placed on omeprazole, but the other horses were not. Additionally, one horse out of each pair was put on a low-starch feed that was fed three times a day instead of twice a day.

After four weeks, the omeprazole treatment was stopped, but the assigned diets continued; researchers examined each horse with an endoscope and graded their lesions. Six weeks later (10 weeks after the study began), the horses again received endoscopic exams and had their lesions graded.

Horses with severe ulcers had a significant reduction in lesions between the start of the study and when the omeprazole ended. However, those horses that received the reduced-start diet sustained the lesion improvement for the entire 10 weeks. Horses that did not have their diets changed returned to their same lesions score by week 10 even though they had received the omeprazole treatment. This means that these horses received no long-term benefit from the omeprazole.

Luthersson concluded that adjusting a horse’s diet is imperative for long-term management of a horse that is ulcer prone. Though some  ulcers heal with diet change alone, she notes that treatment and diet change may necessary for horses with more-severe lesions.

Red more at EQUUS magazine.

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