Date of Award

May 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Animal and Veterinary Sciences

Committee Member

Kristine L Vernon

Committee Member

William C Bridges

Committee Member

Elliot D Jesch

Committee Member

Shannon E Pratt Phillips


Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome affects roughly 90% of performance horses. The only reliable antemortem diagnostic method is endoscopy, which is an invasive process. The cornerstone of treatment is acid suppression, a cost-prohibitive option that is not viable for long-term use. The objectives of this study were to investigate the efficacy of a polysaccharide (PS) supplement on gastric ulcers in the squamous (SQ) and glandular (GL) regions of the equine stomach and identify associated serum and salivary biomarkers. It was hypothesized that severity of SQ and GL ulcers throughout the supplemental period would decrease and levels of serum and salivary proteins, as well as total antioxidant capacity (TAC), would fluctuate with ulcer scores. To test this hypothesis, 8 mature geldings were randomly assigned to a PS-supplemented (TRT) or non-supplemented (CTRL) group once they underwent ulcer induction using a modified Murray method: alternating 12- and 24-hr feed deprivations for a total of 108hr. Following the induction, TRT horses’ feed was top-dressed with 1oz of PS supplement twice daily. Horses were fed 1.0% BW in Fescue hay (Festuca pratensis) and 0.25% BW in concentrates daily (Nutrena® Triumph® Fiber Plus, Cargill®, Inc., Holmesville, OH) with ad libitum water access, as recommended by the NRC. Horses were housed in 3.05x3.65m stalls and 4 were turned out per 0.809ha pastures from 0600-1800hrs and 1800 to 0600hrs, respectively. Pastures were composed of Fescue (Festuca pratensis), rye (Lolium multiflorum), clover, and other native grasses. The experiment was divided into 3 periods: pre- (Day 0), mid- (Day 28), and post-supplementation (Day 42). Per period, endoscopic images were captured and saliva, blood, and gastric fluid samples were collected. The effects of time and treatment were analyzed with a factorial ANOVA. All statistical calculations were performed using the software JMP. The severity of ulcer scores decreased in all horses over the 6-week timespan (P=0.001), with no difference found in ulcer scores between TRT and CTRL horses in the SQ or GL regions. It is possible that the body’s innate healing capacity was adequate in this study, which may have masked the treatment effect of the PS supplement. There was a correlation found between salivary TAC (R2=0.559; P=0.005) and serum TAC (R2=0.620; P=0.002) and ulcer score, which may indicate a shift in oxidative stress factors as ulcers heal. The investigation of polysaccharide supplementation as a preventative measure in ulcerative and non-ulcerative horses under stress is warranted. Additionally, the exploration of other salivary and serum biomarkers to further develop a panel for preliminary screening of equine gastric ulcers should be pursued.



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