Herbal supplements designed to boost your horse’s health abound,, often containing ingredients such as ginger, garlic, yucca, devil’s claw, and more. Recently, Egyptian researchers reported* that garlic—an herb with a long and illustrious history in non-Western medicine—has gastroprotective effects and could potentially be used to help manage horses with gastric ulcers.
“Gastric ulcers in horses are common, affecting a substantial proportion of weanlings and athletic horses, including those treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research (KER) nutritionist.
Achieving a diagnosis of gastric ulcers in horses relies on clinical signs, such as colic, diarrhea, poor appetite, dull coat, decreased performance, behavior changes, and gastroscopy, which involves the use of a flexible endoscope to visualize the lining of the stomach. In terms of treatment, owners have only omeprazole and nutritional management to turn to.
Considering the prevalence of gastric ulcers in many species and the lack of effective medications, the Egyptian research team turned its attention to garlic, which has been used throughout history to treat a variety of ailments. In the study, aged garlic extract (AGE) was selected and supplemented to rats before inducing the formation of gastric ulcers.
Researchers found that AGE had a protective effect on the lining of the stomach that was similar to omeprazole. This prompted researchers to conclude that AGE proved a promising gastroprotective role in gastric ulcers.
“As with all herbal supplements, choose products wisely and discuss their use with your veterinarian to ensure there are no herb-nutrient-drug interactions to consider,” advised Crandell. “Not all research on garlic supplementation in horses has been positive, and a study** on long-term supplementation found it to cause Heinz body anemia.”
Until further research demonstrates both safety and efficacy of garlic in horses with gastric ulcers, Crandell recommends the use of scientifically proven products to support gastrointestinal health, including RiteTrac, available in the U.S. This product quickly neutralizes excessive gastric acid, protecting the stomach lining and restoring the normal gastric environment,” advises Crandell. In addition, RiteTrac moderates the pH of the hindgut, which decreases incidence of acidosis and signs associated with it, including poor appetite, unpleasant disposition, and mild diarrhea.
Australian horse owners are advised to look for these research-proven gastrointestinal-support products.
*El-Ashmawy, N.E., E.G. Khedr, H.A. El-Bahrawy, et al. 2016. Gastroprotective effect of garlic in indomethacin induced gastric ulcer in rats. Nutrition. 32:849-854.
**Pearson, W., H.J. Boermans, W.J. Bettger, et al. 2005. Association of maximum voluntary dietary intake of freeze-dried garlic with Heinz body anemia in horses. American Journal of Veterinary Research. 66(3):457-465.