We are a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) approved equine hospital.
Gastric ulcers are common in horses and can effect horses of many types. The effect of gastric ulceration may be highly variable but they are believed to be associated with weight loss, changes in eating behaviour, change in character, poor performance and colic, although in many horses, they may cause few or no apparent ill-effects.
At the moment the only accurate and reliable way to diagnose gastric ulceration in horses is by gastroscopy (endoscopic examination). Gastroscopy allows examination of the stomach and any ulceration can be graded depending on how deep and how widespread the ulceration is and treated accordingly.
Gastroscopy is performed under sedation and sometimes using a twitch. The gastroscope is a 3 meter long flexible fibre optic camera which is passed up one of the horse's nostrils, the horse then swallows the gastroscope which is passed down into the stomach. Once inside the stomach, the stomach is inflated with air to allow full examination and the scope is manoeuvered to examine different regions of the stomach.
The procedure is usually well-tolerated by the horse and takes around 20 minutes. Horses are ready to travel home when the sedation has begun to wear off (usually after about 30 minutes).
THE EXAMINATION CANNOT BE FULLY PERFORMED IF THE HORSE HAS NOT BEEN STARVED OR IF THERE IS STILL FOOD PRESENT IN THE STOMACH
For horses inclined to eat their bedding, a muzzle should be placed. Both food and water can be made available to the horse as soon as the effects of the sedation have worn off.
There are rarely any untoward side effects of gastroscopy, although occasionally a horse may show mild colic symptoms associated with distension of the stomach by air (this usually resolves one the air is withdrawn at the completion of the procedure).
Occasionally the gastroscopy procedure may result in a small nose bleed. This is perfectly harmless and will stop with in a relatively short time.