Study from the RVC indicates that feeding commercial feedstuff aids healing and prevention of recurrence of equine squamous gastric disease

A new study by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has revealed early indications that feeding a particular commercial feedstuff to horses suffering from Equine Squamous Gastric Disease (ESGD) aids the prevention of disease recurrence.

The research, undertaken in association with British Horse Feeds, used a commercial beet pulp/alfalfa/oat fibre mix in 10 horses experiencing naturally occurring ESGD and identified positive outcomes more commonly for those horses fed the mix during both the healing and the prevention phases compared to those fed the mix during the prevention phase only. Further studies including larger numbers of animals are now warranted to evaluate this beneficial effect in more detail.

Equine squamous gastric disease refers to injury of the squamous mucosa (inner lining) of the stomach as a consequence of sustained exposure to acid. Spontaneous healing of ESGD is variable and treatment is recommended for any horse with a clear disruption of the gastric squamous epithelial integrity. The current drug of choice for acid suppression is the proton pump inhibitor omeprazole. This drug is typically used in combination with management changes to help reduce the risk of acid exposure.

While methods to treat and/or prevent ESGD effectively without requiring the continued use of pharmaceutical agents is desirable - with many commercial products are available on the market - there is currently little data on the efficacy of these supplements. Feedstuffs are also often recommended to mitigate potential damage from acid associated with ESGD. Therefore, this study aimed to determine the effectiveness of feeding a commercial beet pulp/alfalfa/oat fibre mix in relation to healing and/or preventing the recurrence of the disease.

During the process, all’animals were treated with omeprazole as per the attending veterinarian’s recommendation. Five of the horses were randomly allocated to also be fed a commercial beet pulp/alfalfa/oat fibre mix (1Kg/horse divided into 2 meals/day) while the other half had no additional feed for one month (healing phase). A gastroscopy was then repeated to assess the response to therapy. If the ESGD had healed, omeprazole therapy was discontinued, and the commercial feed was given to all’horses for a further month (prevention phase) to assess its ability to prevent recurrence. A gastroscopy was repeated at the end of the second month to determine ESGD recurrence.

All owners were also advised on changes in management (increase in pasture turnout, constant access to good-quality hay and reduction of non-structural carbohydrate intake) by the attending veterinarian to further support healing as per the normal procedure for dealing with cases of ESGD.

The study found that feeding a commercial beet pulp/alfalfa/oat fibre mix to horses with naturally occurring ESGD during both the healing and the prevention phases (rather than just the prevention phase) alongside management change recommendations was associated with complete prevention of recurrence. In contrast, ESGD recurred in 60% of horses that were fed the commercial diet only during the prevention phase.

Professor Nicola Menzies-Gow, Professor in Equine Medicine at the RVC, and lead author of this research, said:

"These initial findings are really promising in terms of us being able to explore the possibility of the healing and prevention of ESGD without the continued use of drugs. What it shows is that we now require further studies with larger numbers of animals allocated to all possible control and treatment groups to corroborate the findings of the present study."

Branca Gebbie, Business and Trade Manager at British Horse Feeds said:

"We are delighted with the study’s positive outcome, affirming our belief of how our composition mix of Fibre-Beet can be used to support gastric physiology with pectin, emulsifiers, and alfalfa, reducing stomach acidity and maintaining a healthy stomach lining to prevent ESGD recurrence. This reinforces our dedication to produce innovative, effective feeds for equines that are supported by nutritional and clinical evidence based veterinary research."


N.J.Menzies-Gow, T.Shurlock. The effect of feeding a commercial feedstuff on gastric squamous gastric disease (ESGD) healing and prevention of recurrence. Science Direct. February 2024.­024.105015

The article is available to read here:­m/science/­article/pi­i/S0737080­624000224?­via%3Dihub

About the RVC

  • The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK’s largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a Member Institution of the University of London.
  • It is one of the few veterinary schools in the world that hold accreditations from the RCVS in the UK (with reciprocal recognition from the AVBC for Australasia, the VCI for Ireland and the SAVC for South Africa), the EAEVE in the EU, and the AVMA in the USA and Canada.
  • The RVC is ranked as the top veterinary school in the world in the QS World University Rankings by subject, 2023.
  • The RVC offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences.
  • The RVC is a research-led institution, with 88% of its research rated as internationally excellent or world class in the Research Excellence Framework 2021.
  • The RVC provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals and first opinion practices in London and Hertfordshire.