Understanding Equine Glandular Gastric Disease (EGGD)

Equine Glandular Gastric Disease (EGGD) is a prevalent condition affecting horses, particularly those involved in athletic or stressful activities. This disorder requires inflammation and ulceration of the glandular portion of the horse’s stomach, distinct from the more commonly known squamous ulcers. EGGD presents unique challenges in diagnosis and treatment, making it crucial for horse owners and caretakers to understand its causes, symptoms, and management strategies.

Causes of Equine Glandular Gastric Disease

The exact causes of Equine Glandular Gastric Disease (EGGD) are not fully understood but appear multifaceted and often tied to horses’ lifestyle and management practices. High-stress environments, including intensive training, competition, or frequent transportation, may predispose horses to develop EGGD. The physiological stress response triggered by these activities may compromise the mucosal defence mechanisms, rendering the glandular region vulnerable to ulceration. Although it was previously thought that the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), commonly administered for various health issues in horses, can contribute to the development of gastric ulcers by aggravating the delicate gastric environment, there is no direct evidence to suggest that normal, appropriate dosages of these medications increase EGGD risk.

There is currently no evidence to suggest specific nutritional risk factors for EGGD, and so most dietary recommendations are based on those for ESGD. Diets low in fibre and high in starch, such as grain-heavy feeds, should be avoided, and forage should ideally be provided on an ad-lib basis. Increasing our knowledge of the underlying causes is imperative for formulating effective measures to reduce the incidence and severity of EGGD.

By prioritising stress reduction techniques, such as providing ample turnout time, incorporating regular rest days from exercise, and maintaining a consistent environment, horse owners can help mitigate the risk of glandular ulcers. Adopting a balanced and fibre-rich diet that emphasises forage intake while minimising reliance on high starch concentrate feeds can also help stabilise gastric pH and support overall digestive health.

Symptoms and Clinical Presentation

Identifying EGGD can be challenging due to its overlapping symptoms with other gastrointestinal issues in horses. Common signs of EGGD include intermittent or persistent poor performance, changes in behaviour (such as irritability or reluctance to work), decreased appetite, weight loss, and mild to severe colic signs. Unlike squamous ulcers, which manifest near the top of the stomach, glandular ulcers associated with EGGD are found in the lower glandular portion of the stomach.

Clinical diagnosis of EGGD typically involves a combination of gastroscopy and clinical evaluation. Gastroscopy allows veterinarians to visualise the stomach lining directly and identify the location and severity of ulceration. However, a thorough understanding of the horse’s clinical history and presenting symptoms is also important.

Treatment and Management Strategies

Management of EGGD requires a multifaceted approach aimed at reducing gastric acidity, promoting mucosal healing, and addressing underlying factors contributing to ulcer development. Providing horses with constant access to high-quality forage and reducing the reliance on high starch concentrates may help to reduce the risk of ulcers.

In addition to dietary changes, medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or histamine receptor antagonists (H2 blockers) are often prescribed to reduce gastric acid production and promote the healing of ulcerated tissues. Furthermore, addressing stress factors in the horse’s environment, such as implementing regular turnout and reducing intense training or competition schedules, may significantly aid with EGGD.

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