Prevalence of Gastric Ulcerations in Horses with Colic

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The goal of this study was to determine the prevalence of gastric ulcers in horses with acute abdominal crisis (colic) and to examine the temporal effect of hospitalization on ulcer development in equine patients treated for colic. In addition, other factors that may be associated with gastric ulceration were also explored. The study design was a prospective original study incorporating 169 horses that presented to the George D. Widener Hospital for examination. One hundred and twelve horses presenting with the chief complaint of colic were included in the study group, and 57 horses that presented for non-colic or nonemergency complaints were evaluated and included as case controls. Gastroscopy was performed on equine patients presenting with the chief complaint of colic or horses presenting for reasons other than colic (control); mucosal changes were scored 0 to 3. Additionally, horses presenting for colic were gastroscopically evaluated twice during a 5-day period. Medical records were reviewed for history, clinical findings, laboratory results, and treatment. Seventy-six of 112 horses presenting with the chief complaint of colic had gastric ulceration compared with 41 of 57 horses in the control group. There was a significant association between age of the patient and chief complaint (ie, colic vs control) and between breed and chief complaint. There was no association between gastric ulcer score and chief complaint (colic vs control). Thirty-eight of the 112 horses presenting with colic deteriorated in ulcer score while hospitalized. Using a Pearson chi-squared test, there was no statistically significant association between gastric ulceration with age, breed, or sex. Horses with gastric ulceration in the colic group had lower packed cell volumes compared with horses presenting with colic without gastric ulcers, and this was statistically significant (P < .001). The high incidence of gastric ulceration in the study and control groups supports the reports of other investigators that gastric ulcers in horses, no matter the presenting complaint, are widespread. There was a significant association between breed and chief complaint (P = .005); however, breed and outcome of gastric ulceration were not related (Thoroughbreds were the least likely breed to present for colic). Although a trend in increasing gastric ulceration was seen in hospitalized colic patients, it was not statistically significant. This suggests that horses that are hospitalized may be at increased risk for developing gastric ulcers because of stress, feed deprivation, and administration of treatment. Thus, horses that present for colic should be gastroscopically evaluated if clinical signs raise the index of suspicion for gastric ulceration.

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