Unfortunately, ulcers are a common issue in horses and lead to many vague clinical signs. It doesn't help that horses can frequently undergo periods of stress from shows and work or that many medications can irritate the stomach. We encourages horse owners to look for any signs of an issue so we can promptly perform equine gastroscopy and your horse can receive the care he or she needs quickly.
General Information About Equine Gastroscopy
Gastroscopy is a procedure where the veterinarian inserts a 10-foot-long, narrow one-centimeter-in-diameter tube with a small high resolution camera on the end of it. Our practitioner gently advances the endoscope through your horse's nose and into the stomach. As it goes through the esophagus and into the stomach we can look for areas of irritation or ulcers. The camera is used to capture images of the inside of your horse's upper GI tract including all areas of the stomach and into the small intestine.
Fasting for Gastroscopy
Our doctors will discuss with you what you need to do for your horse prior to his or her procedure. For instance, your horse will need to fast for 12 hours before having gastroscopy. He or she may not have any food during this time but can still have water up until 6 hours before the procedure. This allows for an empty stomach so we can clearly see all surfaces. Depending on when your appointment is, this may mean your horse gets to have dinner like normal and still eat meals the following day, just on a slightly altered schedule.
Once our vet finishes the procedure, you may feed him or her in about 30 minutes to an hour afterward.
How Your Horse Feels During Gastroscopy
The procedure isn't painful for your horse. He or she receives a mild sedative to ease the discomfort. As a result, the insertion of the tube only feels like a tickling sensation. Your horse way receive a topical anesthetic in his or her nose to minimize discomfort as well.
What Gastroscopy Can Diagnose
Gastroscopy is a procedure our vet uses to diagnose ulcers because it's the only way to accurately diagnose an ulcer and determine the type. Two main types of ulcers exist, and testing for them through stool samples isn't as accurate. We are increasingly seeing gastritis and ulceration in the glandular part of the stomach which can present with vague signs such as poor performance, girthing pain and intermittent colic.
Additionally, the doctor can use it to diagnose impactions, tumors, and other upper GI tract problems.