Alternative to Omeprazole
Think about the last commercial you saw for a prescription drug. After the warm-filtered footage of the miraculously healed, you hear it...the speed-talking voice over fades in with a mile long list of potential side effects that seem worse than the condition the drug is intended to treat! Equine medications are no different.
Omeprazole is one of the most popular (and the most expensive!) medications used to treat and prevent gastric ulcers in horses. When it comes to side effects, the cost may be even higher than you think.
Omeprazole is a "proton pump inhibitor" which basically means it works by essentially turning off the pumps that secrete acid in the horse's stomach, thereby giving ulcers a chance to heal. The thing is, a whole host of digestive processes depend on this acid to function properly.
With an improper acid balance in the horse's stomach, the protein digesting enzyme called pepsin is deactivated. Without pepsin, a horse is unable to digest protein which can lead to protein deficiencies or even sensitivities since the undigested proteins can cause an immune response further down the digestive tract. For a sporthorse, muscle power is everything, and without protein, muscle power is a goner!
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Omeprazole have also been linked to bone de-mineralization in humans. Though it is unclear exactly how PPIs could decrease bone density, it is thought that they inhibit the body's ability to absorb calcium. Decreased bone density may put horses at risk for fracture, and this risk increases in athletic horses, obviously something that you'd avoid at all costs.
While some horses may be able to do a one and done course of omeprazole and have their ulcers heal and not return, this is typically not the case for many sporthorses. The risk for these side effects increases exponentially when a horse requires ongoing treatment or multiple rounds of treatment with Omeprazole. And unfortunately, when the treatment ends, a whole other set of risks begin.
Omeprazole is linked to a phenomenon called "acid rebound hypersecretion" whereby the body will secrete abnormally high amounts of acid after being treated with a Proton Pump Inhibitor. This is probably the worst potential side effect of all since it can actually CAUSE ulcers worse than the ones the Omeprazole was given to treat in the first place, putting your horse on what we call the "Ulcer Merry-go-Round"
So how can you get your horse off the Ulcer Merry-go-Round?
Firstly, your aim should be to work WITH your horse's body, not against it. Lifestyle changes are the most effective at long term ulcer relief, primarily more turnout and a fiber based diet. Unfortunately for many sporthorses these simply aren't an option. Show schedules, limited availability of turnout time, and the need for additional fuel for performance in the form of concentrated feeds are the necessary evils of the game. Fortunately, there's an all natural alternative to pharmaceutical drugs that helps to bridge the gap between the life your sporthorse leads and the one nature intended.
Gut Tonic is nature's remedy to your horse's digestive upset. It does more than help heal gastric ulcers. It returns your horse's entire body to an alkaline state, just like that of a horse in its natural environment. When a horse's body is in acid/alkaline balance, the risk for many common ailments, including gastric ulcers, is diminished. And whats more, there are no side effects, only SUPER effects!