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Exploring Aloe Vera for Equine Gastric UlcersBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · June 13, 2017

In the seemingly never-ending battle against equine gastric ulcers, a research team from the University of Adelaide in South Australia reached for an unusual solution: aloe vera. According to those scientists*, aloe vera isn’t just soothing for burnt or irritated skin but also potentially beneficial for protecting the sensitive lining of the stomach.

“The inner leaf gel of the aloe vera plant has been reported to be effective in the prevention and treatment of gastric ulcers in man and in animals in experimental models. Its anti-ulcer properties have been attributed to a variety of possible mechanisms, including anti-oxidant activity, anti-inflammatory properties, cytoprotective and mucus-stimulatory effects, and its ability to regulate gastric acid production,” explained the researchers.

Despite the theoretical benefits of aloe vera for gastric ulcers, limited data have been published showing whether horses benefit from this natural product.

“Equine gastric ulcer syndrome, or EGUS, includes ulcers affecting both the squamous and glandular portions of the stomach. Such ulcers negatively affect performance, prove challenging to effectively treat, and unfortunately recur frequently once treatment has stopped,” reminded Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

To determine whether aloe vera was a viable option for horses with EGUS, 39 horses diagnosed with one or more gastric ulcers (grade ≥2 lesions of the squamous and/or glandular mucosa) were offered either aloe vera or omeprazole. Key findings of the study included:

  • Most horses were diagnosed with ulcers in the squamous portion of the stomach rather than the glandular portion;
  • Better healing rates were noted in the omeprazole group; and
  • Of the patients diagnosed with squamous ulcers, 56% of horses offered aloe vera improved, whereas 85% of horses treated with omeprazole improved.

Overall, the researchers concluded, “Four weeks of treatment with aloe vera inner leaf gel, at 17.6 mg/kg twice daily, was inferior to omeprazole buffered paste, at 4 mg/kg once daily, in the treatment of naturally occurring EGUS.”

Even though aloe vera proved inferior to omeprazole, the currently recommended treatment for EGUS, more than half of all horses improved. No control group was included, and a combination of omeprazole and aloe vera was not included, suggesting that aloe vera warrants further study.

“A proven way to support gastrointestinal health includes KER’s RiteTrac. This product quickly neutralizes excessive gastric acid, protecting the stomach lining and restoring the normal gastric environment,” explained Crandell. “In addition to using RiteTrac, KER has partnered with quality feed companies to address management issues associated with minimizing risk of developing gastric ulcers in horses.”

In Australia, look for these research-proven products.

*Bush, J., R. van den Boom, S.H. Franklin. Comparison of aloe vera and omeprazole for treatment of equine gastric ulcer syndrome. Equine Veterinary Journal. In press.