A University professor took horses back to the basics last year, using natural berries rather than pharmaceuticals to heal their stomach ulcers.
Veterinary medicine professor Frank Andrews studied the effects of horse stomach ulcer treatment, finding seabuckthorn berries healed some parts of the stomach just as well as prescribed medication.
Andrews said some horses, especially those in performance, develop equine gastric ulcer syndrome, or stomach ulcers, causing a deduction in performance, a roughening of the hair coat and ongoing stomach pain for the horse.
“What I wanted to do was find a natural product that would prevent those ulcers from recurring,” Andrews said.
Andrews tested the use of a natural product called SeaBuck Gastro Plus, a feed additive made from berries from the seabuckthorn shrub.
Andrews used two groups of eight horses from the University Vet School and fed each group the same type and quantity of food. He said he added four ounces of the natural treatment to each horse’s food in one group while leaving the other group without the treatment.
They inserted a 9-foot endoscope through each horse’s nose to reach the stomach for periodic examination, he said.
After 35 days, Andrews said the glandular ulcers in the lower two-thirds of the stomach of the treated group were gone, but the ulcers in the squamous mucosa, the upper one-third of the stomach, did not go away.
The natural treatment resembled a treatment used to help stomach problems in humans, he said. A horse’s lower stomach is similar to that of a human stomach, so the medication had a similar effect on eliminating the ulcers.
Andrews concluded a horse owner would have to use a prescription to take care of the remaining ulcers in the upper part of the stomach.
While some horses tend to be more likely to develop ulcers than others, Andrews said the ulcers may be caused in part by nature and nurture. He said owners feed horses differently from the way they are fed in a “wild
Many horses eat sweet feed, which contains corn and molasses. The horses enjoy it, but Andrews said sweet feed does not necessarily promote the best health for the stomach.
Andrews also said esophageal tissue lines the upper one-third of the stomach. When the horse engages in activities like racing, the stomach acid splashes onto the upper stomach area and can cause ulcers.
“The problem is in the anatomy of the stomach,” he said. “The whole horse’s digestive tract was made to walk around in the pasture and eat.”
Bruce McMullin, CEO and founder of Seabuck, said using natural products saves money and prevents the side effects that come with taking prescribed products.
Though a natural diet in horses surpasses prescribed products, McMullin said implementing this diet in horses has not yet caught on with many people.
“Typically, people get a level of comfort with something they’ve used in the past, and it’s hard for them to try something new,” McMullin said.