|breakthrough. Instrumental in the research was the use of a two-meter
endoscope which permitted researchers to sample larger portions of a horse’s
gastro-intestinal tract without being hindered by the lack of length that the
endoscopes then in use presented.
The most surprising aspect of the research began with a study that sampled about
100 healthy looking foals from a variety of stables. When the animals’
gastro-intestinal tracts were probed, about half of them were found to possess
the tell-tale lesions in their stomachs. Taking the research further, the
scientists proceeded to test a number of race horses, only to find that the
number of affected animals reached a staggering 90 percent! Added to this study
were then those animals who were neither foals nor race horses, but where the
owners were concerned because the animals had a poor appetite or simply suffered
from some kind of abdominal pain. They, too, had the lesions in their stomachs.
In the past horse trainers simply resorted to using Mylanta and horses who
showed no symptoms were assumed to be fine. Instead, it appears now that even
animals that are asymptomatic are still affected.
While in humans the presence of ulcers is most often linked to stress, this
conclusion does not fit in the animal kingdom. Instead, it appears that the
reason for such stomach problems is the fact that horses are no longer able to
continuously graze, but instead have to follow specific feeding patterns – this
is also the reason why race horses who are on rigid schedules are more affected
than pleasure horses. Ideally, a horse will eat intermittently to have enough
food stuff in its stomach to absorb the digestive acids which it always
secretes. This prevents the stomach’s lining from being damaged by the acid.
Aided by the horse’s saliva which further contains acid neutralizing agents, the
pH balance of the stomach remains constant. Yet when the horse is not able to
continuously graze, its stomach pH balance suddenly drops to such an extent as
to be associated with the causation of ulcers.
While in the past antacids as well as histamine type II receptor antagonists
were utilized, the latter was found to be more effective. It permits for
protection of up to 24 hours, and this of course is invaluable for race horses.
Of course, there are different kinds of histamines, and it is imperative that
the use is discussed with a veterinarian. Another fact to consider is that the
presentation of ulcers will require continuous treatment. This shows that
prevention is indeed best, and if you are able to let your horse continuously
graze, you will be rewarded with an animal that does not suffer from ulcers. In
the meantime, it is also important to note that the recent advent of the
three-meter endoscope will give rise to more studies, specifically as it
concerns the presence of ulcers in the stomach’s glandular region.