Equine gastric disease is common across all breeds and equestrian disciplines. Until recently, the term Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) was used to describe both Equine Squamous Gastric Disease (ESGD) and Equine Glandular Gastric Disease (EGGD).
However, we now know that they are distinct diseases and are completely unrelated in terms of their appearance, risk factors, treatment and management. They both just happen to occur in the horse’s stomach!
Before treating a horse for gastric disease it is important to recognise that, depending on the clinical signs present, a range of diseases should be considered and that it is important to seek veterinary guidance. For example, poor appetite and unexplained weight loss are two of the most common clinical signs of gastric disease, but they may also be present in a range of other diseases such as dental disease, parasites or underlying illness. Similarly, poor performance and behavioural changes are common complaints from owners of horses with gastric disease, but issues such as orthopaedic or muscular disease, or sand colic, can cause identical clinical presentations. Considering this, it is essential that you consult with your veterinarian prior to treatment.
Signs of gastric disease can be vague and non-specific but may include one or more of the following:
Gastroscopy remains the only method of definitively diagnosing gastric disease. It is also the only way to distinguish between squamous (ESGD) and glandular (EGGD) disease. This distinction is important as the treatment regimens for the two conditions varies, as does the emphasis on specific management changes to prevent recurrence.
While gastroscopy remains best practice, there may be situations where this is not available or feasible. In this situation, the veterinarian may decide that a treatment trial is warranted to help establish a diagnosis. Prior to attempting a treatment trial, consideration should be given as to whether ESGD or EGGD is more likely in the individual horse, with the treatment trial adapted accordingly. It is important to keep in mind that not all horses with gastric disease will respond to a treatment trial. If gastric disease is still considered likely, then gastroscopy should be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
There is no ‘standard protocol’ for the treatment of either squamous or glandular disease. Every lesion is different. Every horse is different. Your vet will tailor a specific treatment plan for your horse.
A follow-up gastroscope is very important to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment and management changes are critical in preventing the recurrence of both diseases.