Equine Squamous Gastric Disease (ESGD) and Equine Glandular Gastric Disease (EGGD)

Equine Squamous Gastric Disease (ESGD) and Equine Glandular Gastric Disease (EGGD)

Gretel Webber, our Dunstan Equine Nutritionist has recently returned from Florida where she attended the Kentucky Equine Research Conference in Florida. There were numerous outstanding speakers and an array of interesting topics for any horse owner.

Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS) was one of the key topics presented by Dr Ben Sykes, a subject many of us are familiar with in some context.  The topic continues to be redefined and research is ongoing.

EGUS is an umbrella term that covers both Equine Squamous Gastric Disease (ESGD) and Equine Glandular Gastric Disease (EGGD), depending on the region of the stomach that is affected. 

ESGD is found in the dorsal half of the stomach and is often indicated by changes in appetite, unexplained weight loss or poor performance.  It is well recognized that management, including diet, has a huge impact on its prevalence. In fact it was indicated ESGD is 80% influenced by management and 20% the individual horse.  What we feed, how much we feed and when we feed are all key considerations in the management of ESGD in our horses.

EGGD effects the ventral half of the stomach, but clinical signs are more obscure presenting with changes in behaviour and rideability, indicating more of a pain based response.  It wasn’t until 2015 that a clear distinction between the two conditions was drawn and that there is no relationship between the two gastric diseases. If a horse has one condition it does not mean it will have the other.  EDDG is, in contrast to ESGD, only 20% influenced by management and 80% by the individual horse.  Surprisingly this condition is more prevalent in warmblood horses than racehorses or endurance horses.  Unfortunately, although the same treatment protocols will be applied as for ESGD, the response is not as obvious.

Gastroscopy is important to determine which ulcer disease you are dealing with and the severity. It will also assist in monitoring treatment progress.  The location of the ulcers dictates the best management and treatment options.  With ESGD the focus is on forage intake (how much and when), timing of exercise and NSC (Non Structural Carbohydrate) level of the supplementary feed.  For EGGD special attention needs to be made to management changes: rest days, environment optimization, limiting the number of riders/handlers and horse companionship, as evidence grows that the condition relates to behavioral stress.

Dr Sykes concluded by saying that even though his research career revolves around gastric ulcers ‘…it is not always the ulcers’. Care must be taken when assessing pain based behaviors that other conditions should be considered and not immediately assign behaviors to glandular ulcers.  This can certainly be challenging!