Ulcers Or Maybe Not

What do you do if your horse is having diarrhea, but you don’t think it is caused by ulcers? This is blog is about what I did to save Dulce who had diarrhea and daily gas colic.

I’m lying in bed exhausted. The camera volume is turned all the way up. Despite the loud buzzing sound from the camera, my eyelids begin to close. I remember thinking, “Maybe I can sleep tonight.” I hadn’t slept through the night since all of this hit a high note in July. It’s a warm September night, and I begin to drift off when I hear, “Bang, bang, bang!” I wake up immediately, and I look at the cameras. It’s happening again. Dulce is kicking the barn walls and rubbing up against them. Pain….severe pain.

I throw boots on without any socks and run outside to help him. I think I had most of my clothes on. Before I get to the gate, I see Chaco chasing Dulce out of the barn, and they run past me. Chaco is my healer. He rarely leaves Dulce when he feels bad, and when things go wrong, he tries to help me make it right. Running is the best thing Dulce can do. Harley is the cutter. Whenever Dulce tries to break away from Chaco, Harley cuts him back into Chaco’s driving force. I’m always amazed at how horses help each other. Hopefully, their efforts will free up the gas trapped in his tight colon. I block Dulce when he heads for the barn. After fifteen minutes, it’s all over. Dulce is calm and eating. Chaco is right by him and Harley is on his other side. Shaking I hug all of them. I walk inside crying fearing that one night soon it won’t end well.

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Horses have the most mysterious gut. There is so much that goes on that scientists are still trying to understand and figure out solutions for. I always say that when I die the first thing I want to talk to God about is why in the world can’t horses burp?!

Dulce began to struggle gut wise the moment he switched to my hay back in April. I wish I could have brought more hay home with me, but none was available. I think if I could have transitioned him more slowly, I could have avoided a lot of this. However, maybe not. I think this all began to develop long before I even knew of him or the rescue organization took him in.

Ever since he had worms, https://chacoottb.com/2019/07/14/differen-horse-different-night/, things steadily declined. You would think after we got rid of all those worms he’d easily gain weight. Unfortunately, the complete opposite happened.

When I brought him home, I got the first hundred pounds on him easily. However, when we hit 930 pounds, we embarked on a crazy rollercoaster ride. It was as if his body rejected the weight gain like a body rejects an organ transplant. As soon as he hit 930 his body suddenly produced profuse diarrhea in an hour or two causing him to lose those 30 pounds in a day. He’d go back to 900 where his manure improved. He’d gain 30 pounds again, diarrhea again, back down to 900 pounds, and then his manure improved again and again and again and again. After he got his vaccinations, he plummeted. Diarrhea became the norm, and he went down to 880 pounds. Winter is around the corner. It may be hotter than heck this pastAugust, but I could see it coming. I needed to get his body to accept the weight gain quick.

You all probably think he has ulcers. Maybe, but he never acted like it. From the beginning he continuously had a healthy appetite, which horses with ulcers rarely have. I could scratch his belly without even a flicker of the ear, which horses with ulcers hate. I put him on gastromend when I brought him home. I put him on two rounds of Egulsin, and nothing ever changed. Talking about another horse with a friend about the use of Bute got me thinking about Dulce. Racehorses usually get two shots in the morning, and one of those shots is usually Bute. Bute can cause ulcers and a leaky gut.

The big piece of the puzzle that caused him to go downhill rapidly happened long before I even knew he existed. His teeth were never floated until he landed at the rescue. He developed two ulcers on his tongue after being retired due to hooks on his teeth. He couldn’t eat, lost weight, and developed a hindgut ulcer. The ulcers in his mouth were healed, he went through a month’s round of gastroguard, after which he was scoped and no ulcers were found. All of this was done by the rescue, and I am so grateful to them for all they did for Dulce before I picked him up. This is when I believe things began their downhill descent. Were all of his problems now because of ulcers? Did they return? Even though ulcers is the easy choice for gut issues, my gut kept saying something different.

In addition to all of this, his feed changed three times. The first time was when he left Louisiana for Kentucky where he was fed something different at the rescue organization. He then moved to his breeder and went onto a different feed, and then he move to Colorado with me where his feed changed again. He also did a lot of long distance traveling in a year. He went from Louisiana to Kentucky, and from Kentucky to Colorado.

I began researching the causes of a leaky gut, and I found that a change in hay, travel, Bute, medications (I have no idea what other drugs he received at the track besides Lasix), and vaccinations are all causes. I feared this was the problem knowing it can be fatal. I quickly researched treatment, and the best treatment found so far is administering Butyrate and zinc.

What is Butyrate? Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid, which is vital in horses to maintain a healthy gut. Butyrate is naturally produced by the body during the fermentation of fiber. However, during times of stress or heavy workloads, both of which Dulce experienced, there may not be enough concentrations of Butyrate in the horse’s hindgut. If given along with Zinc, the butyrate tightens the junctures where the horse can be leaking through, and it can reduce inflammation of the intestinal lining.

Sodium Butyrate can help prevent inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and diarrhea. One of the other very important things Butyrate does is it affects and prevents the colonization of Salmonella and Campylobacter. It also positively influences the composition of the gut microbiota. If Dulce didn’t develop a leaky gut, he developed a toxic gut.

Another thought that kept going through mind was something that my friend Heather said while we were in Kentucky. She said that Dr. Kellon talked about how horses may not have ulcers at all, but rather they may be suffering from a disruption in their gut flora. Butyrate was my option to address both possible situations.

I immediately put him on Butyrate, and I couldn’t believe the change. Within five days, his diarrhea disappeared. He hasn’t experienced anymore bouts of horrible diarrhea. This doesn’t mean his poop was perfect. I think it went from 0% to 10% of normal to 50% to 60% normal in those five days. Now he ranges from 75% to 90% normal. It’s been a slow process. I needed to remind myself over and over that it took awhile for this to develop, and it will take time to heal. The great thing about butyrate is he started gaining weight, and this time he’s keeping it on. We went from 880 to 900 to 930 to 950 to 970 where we are today. We are 80 pounds away from our goal of a 1,050.

I wish I could say all of our problems were solved. They weren’t. Ever since the worming and the colic, he developed bad bouts of gas throughout the day, and they all happened at regular intervals. The first was at 8am, second 11am, third 3pm, and the fourth was between 8pm and 9pm. The only way to resolve this without administering banamine all the time was to walk him, let Chaco chase him, or he would roll before I could get to him. He then would poop, and go back to normal. This was my day every day since July.

The vet stated he had a tight colon, which filled with gas, and his blood work was all within normal levels. I believe the gas was caused by a toxic gut due to a massive disruption in his gut flora when his mouth ulcerated all those months ago. The bad flora took over, and the good flora were outnumbered and couldn’t gain ground. I believe the bad flora were producing huge amounts of gas that his body couldn’t tolerate. My vet suggested that I put Dulce on an MOS prebiotic.

MOS stands for Mannan Oligosaccharide, which is an indigestible carbohydrate compound that is harvested from the cell wall of a certain type of yeast. This compound immobilizes any pathogens located in the gut, and it boosts the immune system. It binds onto harmful bacteria such as Clostridium, E. Coli, and Salmonella clearing them from the gut while bolstering the colonization of needed probiotics naturally. Thus, the horse will be able to digest and absorb nutrients much better.

After I started Dulce on this, his poop improved more; a lot less mush with more pellets starting to form. Also, the 8am and 11am bouts of gas disappeared. The other two lingered. I then read in Tomas Teskey’s book about feeding alfalfa as a supplement. I couldn’t feed Dulce any alfalfa when I brought him here, because massive amounts of diarrhea ensued. His body simply couldn’t handle it. When a horse is as underweight as he was and worse, their organs shrink; so you have to go slow with what you feed them and feed them several small meals a day. Alfalfa can be way to rich for a malnourished horse.

Since Dulce wasn’t absorbing the nutrients quite like I wanted him to with too much water still in his poop, I need to be careful with alfalfa since his hindgut is still trying to find balance. I also need to worry about him getting gut stones, which are like kidney stones but in the intestinal tract. Unlike kidney stones, gut stones kill horses.

Gut Stones

If you feed too much alfalfa, it can cause major problems with a horse’s hooves. It can cause the hoof walls to chip away, and/or cause them to be tender footed. I decided to start him out on one pound of alfalfa a day slowly working up to three closely monitoring him. Feeding him this way improved his digestion a bit more, and it got rid of the 8pm bout of gas. So far so good with his hooves.

Another thing I added to his feed is Triple Crown Naturals. I LOVE this feed. No GMO’s or soy, all of the ingredients are locked in, and it has MOS prebiotics, probiotics and butyrate in it. There is no corn, and it has flaxseed oil in it. I am only feeding 1/4 pound a day at this time. When it is time to wean him off of the Butyrate pills, I will keep him on this for another month or two before weaning him off of this.

You’d think that was the end of all my struggles, that I was on the right path, and I can relax. Well, that episode of him kicking the stall wall happened a week and a half ago. His 3pm bout of gas still happened daily, and if it didn’t happen at 3pm, it happened later in the evening like that night.

When I came back in, I couldn’t sleep. I got out my phone, and searched the net in utter fear of finding absolutely nothing. I kept praying to find something, because if I couldn’t get this solved, I feared he wouldn’t make it. The image of him pounding his body on the side of the barn from the gas pain kept me searching until 3:30am when I stumbled upon a discussion group. A woman described similar symptoms and stated that her vet told her to try Total Gut Health by Ramard. She said in five days all gas pain, biting at his sides, rubbing…all of it was gone. This product never came up in my searches before.

I went to every single horse site reading the reviews, and there was not one negative review. Everyone swore by it, everyone said within five days they had their horse back, and everyone said all signs of gas colic were gone. I bought a bottle at 4:30am, and went out to check on Dulce.

I kept thinking about Campylobacter. The MOS prebiotic didn’t say it worked against this, and I was wondering if this was one of the problem bacteria in his gut causing all of this horrible gas. TGH seems to works specifically for horses with gas, gas and sand colic issues, and horses with gut flora issues. It says that it can help with ulcers, but I feel the colic issues are where this product works the best.

When I got the bottle of TGH, I didn’t expect any improvement. This was my desperate Hail Mary. Twenty four hours after the first dose, he had a bad bout of gas, but this time it resolved all on its own. I thought maybe we lucked out this time. Forty eight hours and two doses later, the only sign was a twitch of his tail and lifting of his head before he let out a big, long fart. After that, he hasn’t had any signs of gas pain or trouble. He hardly bites at his sides, and all of that stress he was in is gone. He no longer chews on the buckets, rubs his side on the barn, and he is a happy, mellow horse. When he plays, he is no longer short strided from gas pain, and floats over the ground.

You can read about Ramard’s Total Gut Health here: https://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.html?pgguid=3548820d-deb3-4df3-b216-b2cec0112960&itemguid=333b0314-a0f2-4762-a1cc-b48c648382c9

I believe all of these problems go back to the fact that his teeth (https://chacoottb.com/2019/04/09/teeth-and-ulcers/) were never floated until he ulcerated after being brought in by the rescue. I feel I’ve been running around putting out fires those hooks on his teeth caused. Please, if you take anything away from this, please float your horse’s teeth once a year. The health and well being of a horse’s teeth are as important as a horse’s gut and his hooves, and their lack of care affects every aspect of your horse. They need to be balanced, and if they are, then you have a much better chance of having a healthy horse with a healthy gut and hooves. Please, float their teeth.

I have no idea if I will ever take him off of TGH, because it brings us both peace. I’m sure I will one day, but his gut is still healing, still finding balance, so he will stay on TGH and Butyrate for awhile longer. I’m praying writing about this won’t jinx anything, because yes, I still have the old horse racing superstitions running through my veins.

I sleep with the volume all the way up on my camera screen, and I spend a lot of my night watching him. Last night and all night for the first time since he arrived here, all of his manure was normal; all signs of the past troubles are gone. It is 3:30pm right now, and instead of him being in pain, he’s playing with Chaco.

Update: Dulce is now up to 983 pounds. Since I started him on the Butyrate on August 10th, he has gained 100 pounds.

Some of What I Mentioned

  • Triple Crown Naturals feed is a wonderful feed. No GMO’s, no soy, no corn, and it has butyrate, and an MOS prebiotic in it. It is also made with flaxseed oil amoung many other wonderful things.
  • Triple Crown Natural Ground Flaxseed. They’ve found a way to stabilize it for 24 hours without using soy. Soy can be extremely aggravating to a horse’s gut, so this is why I haven’t used rice bran, which is stabilized with soy. Also, the Naturals Ground Flax made by Triple Crown feeds is GMO free.
  • Did I mention how important floating your horse’s teeth is? I think so, but it needs to be said again.
  • I bought the butyrate in pill form from Amazon. I put the powder into one of the Horse Pill Carrier cookies made by Standlee Hay. I top it off with a dot of honey, and Dulce gobbles it all up. There is a probiotic made with it for horses, but it is pretty pricey.
  • California Trace.
  • Gastromend
  • Ramard Total Gut Health

All horse supplement stores sell Gastromend and Ramard Total Gut Health. I highly recommend both products. Even though I don’t think Dulce has ulcers, I think Gastromend prevented them from developing again. I also believe it helped heal any damage the worms may have caused. Total Gut Health I believe saved him. It was the missing piece of the puzzle. If any of my present or future horses are sensitive to sand colic, colic, are gassy, chews at his sides a lot, I will go with Total Gut Health. If I think he has ulcers, I would go with Gastromend personally.

I buy my MOS prebiotic from Oak Creek Services at http://www.oakcreeks.com. The price is reasonable, and you only have to feed a tablespoon once a day. She also ships it out immediately. It is a big help in Dulce’s recovery, and Forco, as much as that helped Chaco and Harley, had no effect on Dulce. I saw noticeable improvement once I put him on this. I now have all three horses on this.

If you decide to try any of this, SPEAK WITH YOUR VET FIRST! I’m not suggesting in any way that any of this could be a solution for your horse. I’m not prescribing anything. This is what I tried, and luckily it seems to be working. I did all of this with my vet’s support.

Author: reenchantedhorses

I'm an artist, writer, and a lover of thoroughbreds. I was born and raised in horse racing, and now I wish to help rehome them, educate people about how fantastic they are, and show what they can do.

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