Help! My horse has ulcers – what supplements should I feed?

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Q. I came across your article regarding ulcers and found it to be the best article I’ve read! Everyone seems to bash feed companies before considering their feeding recommendations etc first; I like the fact you guys don’t.

My mare is suspected now of ulcers, she is under veterinary care has been for three months due to chronic watery diarrhea. The vet has taking loads of blood and a few faeces samples to rule out other things. It sounds backwards but my mare has lost so much weight it’s not thought ideal to starve her for hours prior to scope. She smells acidic and always has done. Showed no other signs apart from this that anything was wrong.

The vet has given the go-ahead to supplement her with something herbal to try but I see you don’t recommend licorice and what I’m using has this in. Is there a combination of herbs you would recommend? Her appetite went down the pan.

She has always been out 24/7 still is and is currently on good grazing with some chaff and protexin twice daily. She is fed and always has been fed a natural diet as possible. The only thing she did have at winter was hay which unfortunately was rye but we do not know if this is the root cause or not.

Jemma, Gloucestershire, UK

 

A. Greetings Jemma,

Juliet M Getty

I’m delighted to hear that you found my article to be helpful. I wish it was under better circumstances for your mare.  Let’s see if we can delve into what’s going on with her.

Diarrhea is not a disease in itself, but rather a symptom of something else. It certainly can be a result of ulcers and every effort should be taken to help her stomach lining to heal. I work with a herbalist here is the US who uses these herbs for preventing and treating stomach ulcers: Marshmallow root, Chia, Kelp, Chamomile, Licorice root, Anise, and Meadowsweet. Licorice is fine for the short term –  I just do not like giving it for more than 6 months.  So, if you are able to find something similar, that is a good place to start.

As you know, the cause of most ulcers is not having access to forage at all times, 24/7, all day and all night. The horse’s stomach produces acid every moment of every day, and therefore the horse must have something to chew to produce saliva (a natural antacid). Otherwise, the acid will bath the lining of the stomach, particularly the exposed upper portion that does not have a protective mucous lining. If the acid trickles down to the hind gut, it causes inflammation (and possibly ulcerations), which leads to diarrhea and potentially colic.

Another cause of diarrhea is an imbalance of the microflora. A good probiotic, along with a prebiotic to feed existing bacteria, is an important part of keeping her healthy. One supplement in particular that I have had excellent results with is a source of l-sodium butyrate — a dose of 2500 mg twice daily is what is recommended. If you would like to email me directly, I can point you to supplements so that you may be able to find something similar locally.

Leaky gut syndrome is a condition that veterinarians are becoming more aware of, and can lead to a variety of problems including weight loss, diarrhea, and general malnutrition.  The best way to cure this is to offer colostrum (in addition to hay and/or pasture) 24/7. Here’s an article on colostrum.

Finally, you mentioned that she is losing weight. To combat this, you need more calories, high-quality protein, and attention to the hindgut microbiome. Make sure you are feeding a good fat source that is high in omega 3s (which must be in the diet for all horses, since they cannot be produced). Ground flax or chia seeds are good choices. Then add a quality protein such as ground hempseeds, pea protein, or whey protein. And offer a concentrated pre/probiotic the keep the hindgut microorganisms happy because the horse relies on them to derive calories from fiber.

 

Update: Lawsonia intracelluaris diagnosis

Gemma writes:

“Maggie has had her last test back which was sent to Edinburgh due to the nature of it. They tested along with looking at her blood tests and have found she actually is suffering from lawsonia intracelluaris. The odd thing is she’s 8! The vets are all baffled as her protein is actually is OK. The other 3 horses in her herd are all OK so she’s not passed it on.

“The vets have not seen it in an adult horse it’s just usually foals so she is a first here.

“She’s being treated with antibiotics that are specific but as she’s gone on so long they are guarded with the outcome but are hoping the drugs get stuck in and kill off the disease.”

 

From Juliet Getty:

“Yes, this is unusual, but I am very glad to hear that your vet was astute enough to make a correct diagnosis.

“During her recovery, be sure to give her a potent probiotic. I also recommend feeding colostrum to help heal leaky gut which typically happens from infections and the use of antibiotics.  And finally, you will need to help her regain her body condition by feeding a highly nutritious and clean diet, along with a source of essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6) and a variety of protein sources (such as chia, flax, hempseeds, pea, or whey protein).”

 

 

Juliet M Getty

Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. has been called a "pioneer in free choice forage feeding," and her articles and interviews often appear in national and international publications. » Read Juliet's profile

4 thoughts on “Help! My horse has ulcers – what supplements should I feed?

  • August 26, 2020 at 6:28 am
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    Hi Juliet

    Where can I get hold of some colostrum for my mare? I have tried so many different gut supplements and nothing helps. I am fairly sure she suffers from leaky gut and is sometimes so uncomfortable that she cannot enjoy her work. I see that you have recommended colostrum and I think she could benefit from this.

    Should I contact my vet to purchase some or can I just buy this from a supplier?

    Many thanks

    Kally, Oxfordshire UK

    Reply
  • August 27, 2020 at 2:54 am
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    Greetings Kelly,

    I did a quick search on amazon in the UK and found this product: https://amzn.to/3jio1PX

    It seems to be worthwhile.

    I would start with a small amount to allow her to get used to the taste. Then build up to 30 ml, twice daily.

    Best to you,
    Dr. Juliet Getty 🙂

    Reply
  • August 27, 2020 at 8:31 am
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    Hello! Thank you so much for this. However I was able to source some raw bovine colostrum newly obtained from the cow (yesterday) – 6 litres – which they are sending me by overnight post tomorrow. Very excited as I will be using some for the family too! However how much of this should I give to my mare? It comes in 6 x 1litre bottles and so 5 of them I will freeze straight away. It’s from an organic herd of cows.

    Scouring the internet I can only see it available in powder form, so no idea how much to give in the liquid form?

    Thank you once again! 🙂

    Kally

    Reply
  • September 3, 2020 at 6:01 am
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    Hi Kelly,

    Congratulations on finding some fresh colostrum. I am not able to give you an exact amount since the 30 mls I was referring to is the dry volume. If we assume that the colostrum is 80% water (and that’s only an assumption), you would have to give about 150 ml of colostrum to your mare to get about 30 ml of solids.

    If you can find the exact amount of water in colostrum, that would give us a more accurate number.

    Best,
    Dr. G 🙂

    Reply

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