Gastroscopy 101

A horse-health primer on what to expect if your veterinarian suggests a gastroscopic examination.

From AQHA Corporate Partner Merial

Did you know two out of three non-racing competitive horses have stomach ulcers?1 How do you know if your horse has stomach ulcers? Signs such as poor performance, decreased appetite, recurrent colic or poor body condition2 may point to stomach ulcers, but how do you get a definitive diagnosis?

Your veterinarian may recommend a gastroscopy, the only way to definitively diagnose equine stomach ulcers, if your horse is showing signs.3


The instrument used to see inside your horse’s stomach is called an endoscope. Most endoscopes are about 3.5 meters (almost 11.5 feet) long and 11-13 millimeters (approximately a 1/2 inch) in diameter. The endoscope is inserted through the nostril and into the stomach via the esophagus.4 The veterinarian views the stomach lining via a light and camera on the end of the endoscope and controls the view by moving switches.

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The veterinarian will be trying to see several parts of the stomach and will be looking for anything abnormal, such as ulcerations, erosions, reddening, thickening, abnormal coloring and sometimes parasites such as bot larvae.


Before your horse is scheduled for his gastroscopic examination, your veterinarian will likely ask you to withhold feed (including all hay, grass and grain) for 12 hours and water for four hours.4 The absence of food residue will help to accurately view the horse’s stomach. To help keep your horse at ease during the gastroscopy, your veterinarian will probably check vital signs and lightly sedate your horse before beginning the examination.4


If ulcers are found, your veterinarian may recommend a course of treatment with GASTROGARD® (omeprazole), the only proven and FDA-approved product for the treatment of equine stomach ulcers.2 Following treatment, it is possible for ulcers to return, particularly during times of stress.5 To prevent recurrence, administer ULCERGARD® (omeprazole), the only proven and FDA-approved product to prevent stomach ulcers. 5

Talk to your veterinarian if you think your horse is showing signs of stomach ulcers.

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ULCERGARD can be used in horses that weigh at least 600 pounds. Safety in pregnant mares has not been determined.

Caution: Safety of GASTROGARD in pregnant or lactating mares has not been determined.

®ULCERGARD and GASTROGARD are registered trademarks of Merial. ©2016 Merial, Inc., Duluth, GA. All rights reserved. EQUIUGD1602 (01/16)

1Mitchell RD. Prevalence of gastric ulcers in hunter/jumper and dressage horses evaluated for poor performance. Association for Equine Sports Medicine. September 2001.

2GASTROGARD product label.

3AAEP Equine Gastric Ulcers: Special Care and Nutrition.


5ULCERGARD product label.