Gastroscopy is the examination of a horse’s stomach (usually for the diagnosis of stomach ulcers) and requires a 3m+ long endoscope. We have the latest MedEquus video-endoscopy unit that provides an image for everyone to see and allows fantastic visualisation of the lining of the stomach.

Stomach ulcers have now been identified as a huge problem in some horses, particularly those that are ridden.

There are two distinct types of stomach ulcers in horses:-

  1. Equine Squamous Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (ESGUS). This involves the white/light pink part of the stomach and is caused by the acid stomach contents splashing up to the unprotected stomach lining.
  2. Equine Glandular Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGGUS). This type of ulcer affects the darker, pink, glandular area around the pylorus of the stomach. This is most similar to human gastric ulcers and may be associated with certain bacterial infections.

The use of faecal blood detectors has not been proven to be accurate in the presence of ulcers and cannot establish the grade/severity.

The gastroscope allows us to distinguish between ESGUS and EGGUS; this provides a more accurate, targeted treatment. Pictures and videos can be saved allowing follow-up comparison with previous endoscopies.

Treatments for these are similar and usually involve omeprazole, sucralfate, misoprostol and antibiotics although management (feeding high fibre and oil as well as timing feed in relation to exercise) and supplements (containing gastric protectants and antacids).

The only way to accurately diagnose the presence of stomach ulcers is by a 3m+ long gastroscope.

Occasionally we investigate “choke” (when food becomes stuck in the oesophagus or food pipe) using gastroscopy to visualise the cause. It may be that there are larger pieces of food such as carrot or apples that are causing the obstruction and these can be moved using the ‘scope.

Gastroscopy also allows biopsies to be taken in very rare cases of tumours of the stomach or upper small intestine.

Stomach impactions are also very unusual but are also easily seen using the gastroscope.