Horse owner understanding of equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS)

David Marlin (Speaker), Williams, J. (Speaker), Kirstie Pickles (Speaker), Ben Sykes (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation types › Oral presentation at Conference


Diagnosis, treatment and research in the field of EGUS has developed rapidly in the past 20 years. A review of social media and equine websites suggest there are many misunderstandings about EGUS. This can lead to owners failing to recognise signs that may indicate a horse is affected, undertaking ineffective or harmful treatments or failing to obtain appropriate and timely veterinary support. This can lead to compromised welfare. The purpose of the present study was to survey owners on their knowledge and attitudes towards EGUS using an online survey consisting of 15 structured questions. Eight of the questions were about the owner and whether they had experienced a horse or a close friend’s horse affected by EGUS. The remaining 7 questions were designed to indicate their level of understanding of EGUS. The survey was disseminated via various equine Facebook groups. A total of 1116 responses were received of which 556 had experience of EGUS (ER) and 542 had no direct experience (NER). Most respondents were female (98%) and 70% of respondents were horse owners. Both ER and NER groups perceived the incidence of EGUS to be highest in racehorses followed by sports horses with leisure horses considered least affected. ER reported an increased number of different ulcer types (3±1) compared to inexperienced respondents (2±1; P=0.0001). The most common factors perceived to be associated with causing gastric ulcers (GU) in horses were perceived to be low forage intake, high hard feed intake and infection. Reliable indicators of the presence of GU were considered by ER to be change in behaviour when fed, aggression, anaemia, low white blood cell count and change in behaviour when ridden. There were significant differences between ER and NER. Both ER and NER recognised gastroscopy as the definitive method for diagnosis of GU. ER believed clinical signs were an effective way to diagnose GU whereas NER believed it was only moderately effective (P=0.029). Both ER and NER perceived omeprazole to be a very effective treatment. ER also rated sucralfate as an effective treatment but NER were not aware of sucralfate (P=0.0001). Neither group knew whether corn oil, as recommend by many vets, was effective. ER cited their vet as the most frequent source of information on EGUS. Both ER and NER cited equine nutritionists, feed and or supplement companies, friends and a general web search as sources they used sometimes. Knowledge of client awareness and perceptions of ulcer aetiology, management and treatment allows targeted education of horse owners.

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