Gastric ulcers have been shown to affect a wide range of horses of all ages, breeds and use from the paddock pet to the international sport horse. International studies investigating the prevalence of gastric ulcers have revealed staggering findings, such that 20-60% of show/sport horses, 37-59% pleasure horses and 48% of endurance horses have been reported to be afflicted with gastric ulceration. When focussing on Thoroughbred and Standardbred horses, the prevalence is in the realms of 44-100% of horses examined, depending on the study location. A number of factors have been found to contribute to the development of ulcers including: diet, water intake, housing and exercise. Commonly affected horses can display poor appetite, poor body condition, low grade colic, poor coat, teeth grinding, poor performance or behavioural issues.

Gastroduodenoscopy is the endoscopic assessment of the oesophagus, stomach, and duodenum, allowing determination of the presence, distribution and extent of ulceration. It is the only definitive way to diagnose gastric ulcers in horses.

Routine therapy for gastric ulceration can be an expensive ongoing maintenance cost. At Ascot Equine Veterinarians, we recommend undertaking a gastroscope to confirm the diagnosis of ulcers before embarking on therapy – not only to prevent unnecessary treatment for ulcers but also to be certain that gastric ulcers are the cause of your horse’s discomfort. Gastric pH sampling may also be performed to assess the effectiveness of treatment.

Standing Video Endoscopy

Endoscopy allows close and detailed visualisation of many otherwise inaccessible areas including the upper respiratory tract (nasal passages, sinuses, pharynx, larynx, guttural pouches, trachea and bronchi), parts of the gastrointestinal tract (oesophagus, stomach, duodenum, rectum and small colon), urinary tract (urethra and bladder) and reproductive tract of mares (vagina, cervix and uterus). At Ascot Equine Veterionarians, we have a range of different sized endoscopes that we can use to visualise these different regions of the horse in great detail and take fluid or small biopsy samples for laboratory diagnosis if necessary.

The endoscope is linked to a screen (video endoscopy) which allows our clinicians and clients to see the images in real time. Video endoscopy also has recording capabilities and images can thus be stored for future comparison and copies can be provided for clients and referring veterinarians when requested.

Video endoscopy is an essential diagnostic tool in the evaluation of many horses with poor performance, upper airway obstructions, abnormal respiratory noises, lung disease, gastric (stomach) ulcers and many urinary tract problems.

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Overground Dynamic Endoscopy

Our overground dynamic endoscopic system is invaluable for the diagnosis of upper airway abnormalities – a common cause of poor performance in the equine athlete. Overground dynamic endoscopy allows the clinician to examine the upper airway of the horse while it is exercising under normal conditions. Previously the only way to diagnose these conditions was to perform upper airway endoscopy whilst the horse is galloping on the treadmill. Our system is light-weight, relatively unobtrusive and quick and easy to fit to the patient. Dynamic endoscopic examinations are recorded and evaluated in slow motion so that subtle abnormalities can be identified. This ensures more accurate diagnosis and treatment of upper respiratory problems.

Horses of all breeds and disciplines can be affected with upper airway problems. Abnormal respiratory noise typically occurs because of an obstruction to airflow within the upper airway. There are many different potential causes of upper airway obstruction and these can cause similar noises. In addition, a significant percentage of horses with upper airway obstructions will make no outward noise during exercise. Certain abnormalities of the upper airway only become evident during exercise and will not be seen during endoscopic examination at rest. These conditions include dorsal displacement of the soft palate, pharyngeal collapse, retroversion of the epiglottis and collapse of the aryepiglottic folds to name but a few.