When it comes to diagnosing gastric ulcers, there's a scoping alternative that's becoming more and more popular. It involves a trial treatment of omeprazole.
How does omeprazole work?
Omeprazole works by suppressing the secretion of gastric acid in the horse’s stomach. These gastric acids are produced by tiny substances called proton pumps.
Omeprazole prevents these proton pumps from working properly, which limits their ability to create acid.
Trialling omeprazole as a scoping alternative
A horse with gastric ulcers will show significant improvement within 3 -5 days. If the horse responds well, then it would be worth keeping them on the omeprazole for a further 4 weeks. After this, the horse can be dropped to the maintenance dose.
It’s worth noting that while the symptoms ease within a few days, it usually takes about 30 days for an ulcer to fully heal.
Using omeprazole for horses on a long-term basis
To date, the long term administration of omeprazole has not caused any clinical or biochemical alterations in horses.
Ulcers have a high recurrence rate so a long-term treatment plan with Omeprazole is often recommended (in conjunction with nutrition & management strategies).Omeprazole for horses should not be 'stop started'. This may cause even more acid production as the proton pumps go into overdrive. Similarly, horses should be weaned down to lower doses rather than being stopped suddenly.
Are there side effects when using omeprazole for horses?
Decreased Bone Density
In the study, blood samples and bone biopsies were taken from 2 & 3 year old geldings prior to treatment. The horses were then administered omeprazole once a day for 60 days. It was found that bone density and composition was not significantly different between control and treatment groups at the conclusion of the treatment.
Diagnosing equine ulcers with omeprazole
Using a trial dose of omeprazole is a stress free way of diagnosing equine ulcers. There are very few side effects, and it's an easy diagnostic method - especially when scoping is not a viable option.