Understanding equine ulcers
MFA launches Easykeeper HDC for gastric health
Foals and performance horses risk running afoul of gastric ulcers, studies show. Anywhere from 60 percent of show horses to 90 percent of performance horses suffer from ulcers, a startling statistic that led MFA Incorporated to launch a new product in equine gastric health—Easykeeper HDC.
“A horse has a funny stomach,” said Janice Spears, MFA equine sales and companion pet specialist. “It’s divided in half. The bottom half has better coverage to keep acid from eating through the stomach lining, but for newborn foals that have just been in the birth canal and performance horses that travel in addition to performing, that acid can slosh into the top half causing ulcers.”
Easykeeper HDC, which stands for horse digestive care, contains sodium bicarbonate to neutralize the stomach acid. It works much like an acid reducer for humans, Spears explained.
Symptoms of an ulcer can include reduced appetite, weight loss, dull coat, changes in behavior, impaired performance, diarrhea and colic. Stress and exercise can contribute to these symptoms.
“A ‘cinchy’ horse can also be an indicator,” Spears said. “When you tighten the girth, some horses seem like they’re in pain. They may turn around and act like they’re going to bite. If you’re putting pressure on an ulcer, that could be a sore spot.”
In their natural environment, horses graze throughout the day. As they continually eat, they produce saliva, which helps buffer acid in the stomach. For performance horses that do not spend as much time in the pasture, increasing feeding and available roughage, regulating starch intake, allowing more opportunities to graze, minimizing stress and ensuring water is available at all times can help manage and prevent ulcers, Spears said.
Confirming if your horse has an ulcer requires a veterinary visit. Using an endoscope, a veterinarian will visually check for the presence of ulcers. Though effective, this procedure can be expensive and calls for sedation, which is potentially dangerous, Spears said. She suggests trying a product like Easykeeper HDC first to see if symptoms abate.
“To treat horses, top-dress their food with two cups a day for about two weeks. After two weeks back it off to one cup for maintenance,” Spears said. “A 30-pound package of Easykeeper HDC should last for about a month. Some of our customers have even chosen to use the feed for preventative maintenance, like taking a Tums each day.”
During the months of testing Easykeeper HDC, owners reported improvement in their horses’ attitude.
“Customers who tried the product said they could just tell a difference,” Spears said. “The horses were happier and, ultimately, performed better.”
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