Last Updated on January 28, 2023
Ulcergard and Gastrogard are commonly used treatments for gastric ulcers in horses. But when it comes to Ulcergard vs Gastrogard, what is the difference?
Studies have shown that 60-90% of horses will suffer from gastric ulcers at some point in their lives. Horses can develop ulcers in the same way that humans can; from increased stress, change, and overall uneasiness. It is commonly accepted that the lifestyle of domesticated horses is a key factor in the incidence of gastric ulcers – this is a man-made problem!
There are two FDA-approved medications for gastric ulcers in horses, and these are Gastrogard and Ulcergard. Today we are going to carry out a full comparison of Ulcergard vs Gastrogard, to help you decide which medication is best for your horse.
Ulcergard Vs Gastrogard – Similarities
At first glance, it can be hard to tell the difference between Ulcergard and Gastrogard! Both are manufactured by Merial Ltd, and both come in an oral dosing syringe which enables you to administer the medication directly into your horse’s mouth.
Gastrogard and Ulcergard both contain the same primary ingredient: omeprazole. This is an FDA-approved medication intended to be given to horses that have had gastric ulcers.
So we’ve got two products from the same manufacturer, containing the same ingredient – but there must be a difference, right? Yes, absolutely! Let’s take a look at the contrast between Ulcergard vs Gastrogard.
Ulcergard Vs Gastrogard – Differences
Gastrogard and Ulcergard differ in two primary ways; their purpose and their availability. So, although they contain the same active ingredient, they are not used in the same way. One is given as a veterinary medication, while the other is used more like a feed supplement.
Gastrogard is a medication that must be prescribed for your horse by your veterinarian. You cannot purchase it “over the counter” or at a local farm supply store without a prescription. The only way to get a prescription for Gastrogard is to have your horse checked by your vet and tested positive for gastric ulcers.
Some veterinarians may diagnose gastric ulcers by clinical symptoms and response to treatment alone, but most horses require further diagnostic tests first. This procedure is called a gastroscopy and involves a camera on the end of a narrow tube being passed down your horse’s nose and esophagus. The camera then travels into their stomach and takes videos to see whether ulcers are present or not. This can be quite uncomfortable for your horse and can be very expensive.
However, many veterinarians and horse owners feel it is necessary to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that their horses have ulcers before treating them for this condition. A gastroscopy can do this, and show the extent to which the ulcers have grown. The treatment for gastric ulcers in horses can be very expensive, making it all the more desirable to reach a definitive diagnosis first.
If gastroscopy does show that your horse has ulcers, your veterinarian will then prescribe Gastrogard for your horse. It will initially be prescribed for your horse to take for about a month, with an average-sized horse getting a full tube every day. This equates to 1.8 mg of omeprazole for every pound that your horse weighs.
Gastrogard is intended to provide your horse with large doses of highly concentrated omeprazole. When given in this concentrated form, omeprazole is highly effective at treating existing gastric ulcers. Once treated with Gastrogard for about a month, the horse’s ulcers should be much improved and may have even disappeared altogether.
Ulcergard is a bit easier for you to get your hands on, and can normally be purchased from your local Tractor Supply or Farm and Family store. Many tack stores also sell this product, and it can be purchased from most online equine shops.
As stated before, Ulcergard is manufactured by the same company as Gastrogard, and both are FDA-approved omeprazole pastes for horses.
However, you do not need a veterinarian to prescribe Ulcergard for you to get it for your horse. This is primarily because the function of Ulcergard is different from the function of Gastrogard, and it is used differently.
While Gastrogard is intended to treat horses that currently have gastric ulcers, Ulcergard is used as a preventative measure for horses at risk of developing ulcers. It is not normally used every day for a month like Gastrogard – it is intended to be given whenever you anticipate that there is a risk of your horse being in a stressful situation or a situation where he might be nervous or anxious.
The concentration of omeprazole in Ulcergard is identical to that in Gastrogard, but it is given at much lower doses. An average-sized horse will receive around one-quarter of a syringe of Ulcergard, which equates to 0.45 mg omeprazole for every pound that your horse weighs. This is a quarter of the dose of omeprazole that a horse on Gastrogard would receive.
So, Ulcergard is one of the best Gastrogard alternatives to prevent the recurrence of gastric ulcers in horses prone to this condition. You can buy it directly from the store without a veterinary prescription, helping to keep your horse happy, healthy, and comfortable even in stressful situations.
But is Ulcergard for horses cheap? Well, most horse owners will tell you that occasional or regular dosing with Ulcergard is always considerably cheaper than a long-term course of Gastrogard for a horse that succumbs to gastric ulcers! Not to mention the cost of diagnosing gastric ulcers in the first place, which can run into hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
Ulcers In Horses – When to Use Ulcergard Vs Gastrogard
As things stand, there is not a licensed generic omeprazole paste for horses currently available, so your two options are Ulcergard or Gastrogard. Gastrogard is only available on veterinary prescription and is given as a long-term treatment for horses that have been diagnosed with gastric ulcers. Ulcergard is available to buy over the counter without a prescription and is used as a preventative medication for horses at high risk of gastric ulcers.
Some common situations that cause ulcers in horses are travel and competition, lack of turnout, change of living space, and intense training. If you know your horse is prone to ulcers and will be experiencing any of these situations, you may choose to put him on Ulcergard for their duration. When deciding how much Ulcergard to give and when to give it, you will need to weigh up the risk factors and decide if your horse needs it.
Some breeds of horses are also more prone to ulcers than others. The most well-known breed of horse to get gastric ulcers is the Thoroughbred. Thoroughbreds often develop ulcers during their younger years on the racetrack when they move around frequently from track to track and are subject to intense training. Young racehorses also change hands owners frequently and so their living situations are always changing. They tend to be kept stabled for long periods and are rarely turned out to graze, and are fed a diet that is detrimental to the digestive system.
For example, I own a thoroughbred that had ulcers when I bought him. I didn’t know he had ulcers when I bought him, but it became clear as he showed many symptoms as time went on. He was treated with concentrated omeprazole (i.e. Gastrogard) for about a month and then was switched over to Ulcergard for a few weeks following this.
Today, he only gets Ulcergard when I know he is going to be in a stressful situation. I give him a dose of Ulcergard every day he is traveling at a horse show, and he gets a dose if he is stuck inside with no turnout due to the weather. Thankfully, Ulcergard seems to do its job, as he has stayed happy and ulcer-free since he has been on it!
UlcerGard can be purchased here at Amazon.
So, in summary, Ulcergard and Gastrogard are very similar medications but serve different purposes. Gastrogard is given as a treatment for pre-existing stomach ulcers, while Ulcergard calms the stomach to prevent the formation of ulcers during stressful situations. Gastrogard is a higher concentration of omeprazole to be given every day for at least a month, while UlcerGard is given whenever the horse faces a stressful situation.
Conclusion – Ulcerguard Vs Gastroguard
So, as we have learned, over half of all horses will experience ulcers at some time in their lives. Knowing when and how to treat these ulcers is the best way to ensure that your horse will stay happy and healthy in the long run.
Both Ulcergard and Gastroguard are effective in the treatment and management of ulcers in horses, but they are used in slightly different ways. GastroGard treats pre-existing ulcers, whilst UlcerGard protects the stomach to prevent the formation of ulcers during stressful situations.
We hope that this article has helped you to understand the similarities and differences between GastroGard and UlcerGard. Please share this article and tell us about your own experiences with UlcerGard Vs GastroGard!
Does Ulcergard treat ulcers in horses?
When administered at the recommended dose, Ulcergard is not used to treat pre-existing gastric ulcers in horses. If your horse is diagnosed with stomach ulcers, your veterinarian will most likely prescribe a course of Gastrogard - this contains the same active ingredient as Ulcergard, but is given at a higher dose for a longer period of time. Ulcergard is recommended for horses at risk of stomach ulcers, as a preventative therapy.
How quickly does Ulcergard work?
Ulcergard is a preventative medication given to horses that are at risk of stomach ulcers. It is normally given when it is anticipated that the horse is going to experience a stressful event, such as traveling, stall confinement, racing, or participating in other equestrian events. Ulcergard should be given once per day, starting the day before or on the day that the anticipated event is due to occur.
How do you give a horse an Ulcergard?
Ulcergard is supplied in a syringe with a dial to select the recommended dose for your horse. Once the plunger is prepared, insert the tip of the syringe into your horse's mouth. Direct the syringe towards the back of the mouth or inside the cheek, and push the plunger to administer the dose.
For effective dosing of Ulcergard, it is essential to ensure that your horse's mouth is empty of food beforehand. Observe the horse for a minute or two after dosing with Ulcergard to make sure the full dose is swallowed.
Can ulcers in horses go away on their own?
If a horse has a gastric ulcer that is small and doesn't cause major symptoms, the ulcer can heal on its own. However, it's important to note that only 4 to 10 percent of equine ulcers heal without treatment. That's why you should be familiar with the signs of horse ulcers and pay attention if any of the symptoms appear. The best way to know whether a horse needs to be treated for ulcers is to look for signs of pain, loss of appetite, depression, or weight loss.
Horses may get ulcers because of poor nutrition, stress, injury, or disease. The key to resolving ulcers in horses is to remove the issue that causes them in the first place. For example, if the ulcers are caused by a high-grain diet, cereals should be removed from the diet altogether and the amount of forage increased.
How do you treat ulcers in horses naturally?
Unquestionably, the best treatment for ulcers is prevention. However, if your horse has developed ulcers, it's important to keep him on a high-forage, low-cereal diet and give him access to plenty of water. Ensure that your horse's lifestyle is as natural and stress-free as possible.
There are also several herbs that proved helpful in healing ulcers in horses. Comfrey leaf, marshmallows root, Liquorice, Meadowsweet and Slippery elm all show signs of mucilaginous properties, which aid in the treatment of symptoms of ulcers in horses. They help by coating the intestinal tract with a mucous layer over the stomach lining that discourages irritation and promotes healing.
Michael Dehaan is a passionate horse owner, horse rider, and lover of all things equine. He has been around horses since he was a child, and has grown to become an expert in the field. He has owned and ridden a variety of horses of different breeds, and has trained many to compete in shows and competitions. He is an experienced horseman, having worked with and competed many horses, including his own. He is an active member of the equestrian community, participating in events and teaching riding lessons.