Treating Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome with Omeprazole
Equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) is a common issue in performance horses, particularly in racehorses and foals. EGUS manifests as sores or lesions in the horse's stomach lining, leading to various behavioral and physical symptoms. The causes are diverse, including diet, stress, workload, and environment. Notably, the equine stomach is highly acidic, producing substantial gastric acid for digestion. Different types of ulcers in the stomach present varying healing challenges, with glandular ulcers posing more difficulties than squamous ulcers.
How Omeprazole Works
Omeprazole, a proton pump inhibitor, stands as the primary EGUS treatment. It functions by temporarily reducing stomach acidity, offering relief for ulcers. When administered to horses, omeprazole inhibits the body's acid-producing proton pumps. However, omeprazole is a prodrug requiring activation through digestion. Activation occurs when the horse eats, triggering the proton pumps. Understanding how omeprazole prevents and heals ulcers, as well as potential complications like rebound acid hypersecretion, is vital for horse owners.
Optimizing Omeprazole's Effectiveness
While omeprazole is effective, its efficacy can be enhanced through strategic feeding, particularly for glandular ulcers. Fasting horses overnight and providing hay an hour after the morning omeprazole treatment creates optimal conditions. Administering omeprazole on an empty stomach aids absorption, and a substantial breakfast of hay activates more proton pumps. This timing maximizes the active drug's presence, inhibiting the most proton pumps. Concerns may arise about fasting horses with ulcers, but it mimics their natural overnight fasting during sleep. Removing hay at night enforces this natural fasting, resulting in a more potent medication and thorough ulcer healing.
Proper Dosage and Monitoring
The recommended omeprazole dosage is 4 mg/kg bwt once daily, orally, for 28 days. After the initial treatment, it can be reduced to 2 mg/kg bwt once daily. For glandular disease, combination therapy with sucralfate remains advisable. Monitoring omeprazole treatment is crucial for successful healing and prevention of recurrence. Endoscopic examination serves as the gold standard for assessing ulcer healing, and horses with healed ulcers should be re-evaluated after a few weeks to check for recurrence.
Omeprazole proves highly effective in treating EGUS in horses. Optimizing its effectiveness through strategic feeding and dosage administration is essential. Horse owners must also take preventive steps, including stress reduction, balanced diets, and adequate turnout. With proper management and treatment, horses with EGUS can fully recover and resume their performance activities.