Farm Animal Health: Preventing Horse Ulcers, Feline Parasites and Canine Ear Swelling

MOTHER's Country Vet shares tips on farm animal health, including questions on preventing horse ulcers, uncoordinated goat eyes, feline parasites and canine ear swelling.

| August/September 1996

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    High-performance horses often suffer from ulcers.
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    Dr. Looney examines a high-stress horse
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    How to deal with swelling in your dog's ear flap.

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Andrea Loone, DVM, offers her farm animal health experience in caring for cows, calves, horses and sheep. 

Farm Animal Health Topics

Are ulcers common in horses? If so, what can we do to prevent them? I own a seven-year-old Thoroughbred hunter who is chronically on the go and is such a picky eater. I am worried that this may be a problem with him.
— Perle LeMay
Senneterre, Quebec

Dear Perle,
The horse has two areas of stomach lining, one with glands and one without. Most horses who get ulcers develop these in the nonglandular part of the stomach lining, where it is thought that increased stress and feeding regimes are responsible. Most often these horses are being fed large quantities of grain with reduced quantities of hay in two or three large feedings a day. The grain causes an increase in the production of gastric acid, and the acid contributes to the destruction of the epithelium lining of the stomach.

Many horses, especially those with chronic lameness and arthritis and those on pain-relief medications such as phenylbutazone and other anti-inflammatories, develop ulcers in the glandular area of the stomach. Prostaglandin E is required for mucus production and many anti-inflammatories inhibit the production of Prostaglandin E. Without mucus, the glandular area of the stomach is unprotected and often becomes ulcerated.

Regardless of where the ulcers occur, we are finding that they are more and more common in horses that are shown or raced or are heavy performance/travel animals, and in those animals fed heavy grain meals and anti-inflammatories. Stress is probably an enormous factor in the development of these ulcers. A diet best suited to prevention is one that has more forage than grain, is provided frequently, but not to the point of contributing to excess weight, and is supplemented by a low stress, moderated exercise schedule. Antiulcer medications are available for our equine friends, but the most effective ones are frequently the most expensive and may mask signs of ulcers rather than treat them.

  Our goat has had a tilted head for two months. He seems to get around okay, but I've noticed his eyes having some uncoordinated motions as well. His appetite is good. Should we worry?
—Andy Blackman
Charlotte, NC

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