This was published by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension and reviewed by Shari C. Silverman V.M.D., Senior Veterinarian, Division of Animal Health, New Jersey Department of Agriculture
Can I use something other than pharmaceuticals to prevent gastric ulcers?
My 20 year old horse has colicked 6 times over the last year. He has responded well to pharmaceutical treatment the last three times. We assume that his colic is due to ulcers and have since added oil, beet pulp, and lots of alfalfa to his diet and put him on a daily 1/4 tube of a pharmaceutical treatment. He seems to have bloomed both with muscle and coat since we’ve made the changes (and no more colic – fingers crossed). While I’m relieved and pleased with the results, the cost is killing me. Are there any other ways of dealing with his ulcer issues?
The cost of pharmaceutically treating and preventing ulcers is considerable! However, with some horses there is no alternative treatment. You might consider trying papaya supplementation, although there is no research supporting its efficacy against ulcers in horses. Some people feed papaya pills (the human variety) to their horses, others try the pulp, and some give a whole fruit a day.
Stress is a very common cause of ulcers. One management practice you can employ to reduce stress is to keep ulcer-prone horses outside as much as possible. This is the best way to decrease their stress. Some horses can develop ulcers as soon as 24 hours after being stalled if they are used to being kept outside.
Another cause of ulcers is excess gastric acid in the stomach. Unlike humans, horses produce gastric acid 24 hours a day, not just when eating. Feeding hay free choice will help buffer gastric acid. Alfalfa hay has been shown to have good buffering ability due to its high calcium content; however, you do not want to feed free choice alfalfa. Continue feeding “lots of alfalfa,” but make sure the rest of the hay in the diet is good quality grass hay. Try these management changes once the horse is clear of ulcers, as he might not want to consume free choice hay if he currently has ulcers.
Decreasing any other stressors affecting your horse would also help. Once you have taken steps to reduce his stress, try implementing some of these changes and see if they help with decreasing the severity or incidence of ulcers. These changes should be made after consulting with your veterinarian and discussing the risk factors in discontinuing the pharmaceutical treatment.
Answer provided by Carey Williams, Ph.D., Equine Extension Specialist, Rutgers Cooperative Extension and reviewed by Shari C. Silverman V.M.D., Senior Veterinarian, Division of Animal Health, New Jersey Department of Agriculture.
PapayaforHorses here – try natural before you try expensive meds!