After a month of treatment, Echo was a different horse. He had almost completely stopped pawing, even in the trailer. He didn't bite his lead rope. He was fine with being groomed, and had gotten really good about picking up his feet. He was polishing off all his food and was looking plump and fit at the hunter show last weekend. I'd stopped with the omeprazole and was just using the aloe and Mg for maintenance, and was patting myself on the back about being such a good horse mom and all.
And then last Thursday, he wouldn't eat his dinner. Kept acting like he was going to take a bite and then flipping his head. It was the strangest thing - I wish I'd gotten it on video. After an hour he'd only eaten half of his feed. Argh. I started giving him omeprazole again the next day.
This weekend, things got worse. He pawed in the trailer whenever it was stopped. He pawed like a lunatic in the barn aisle, no matter how many times I yelled at him to quit. Not only did he chew his lead while I groomed, he started chewing on the wood half-walls. He pinned his ears, wrung his tail, and kicked out while I was grooming him. Awesome. Practically overnight, there were ribs that hadn't been there a week ago. I noticed chew marks on the water troughs when I went to scrub them out Sunday afternoon. Horses with ulcers often chew things in an effort to find some comfort, as the saliva produced by chewing helps to neutralize stomach acid. I felt like the worst horse mom ever, for him to be in that much pain.
I put a call into my vet first thing Monday. We discussed symptoms and options, and agreed that we're going to have to treat him again and then put him on a maintenance dose. I also asked about using ranitidine (Zantac) to help make him feel better while the omeprazole works. See, ranitidine inhibits acid production, but only for a brief while, whereas omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor. So omeprazole actually helps the ulcers heal, and Zantac helps reduce the pain while they're healing.
Soo, starting last night (Monday), I began giving Echo 20 crushed ranitidine pills on top of a small serving of grain, about 30 minutes before mealtime. This helps give it time to work, with the idea that eating won't be painful. And either it works miracles or the omeprazole has started working, because he polished off his dinner for the first time in several days. Breakfast and dinner today have been likewise consumed, thank goodness. I've ordered more omeprazole, and we'll likely do a 6 week course this time, then see about doing a maintenance dose or using a supplement like SmartGut to help him. He'll likely get ranitidine tablets and probably the treatment dose of omeprazole any time we haul - which is pretty much every weekend, since I haul to lessons.
As for how to change his lifestyle so that he's got less stress in his life, that's a hard one. He's out 24/7 with hay or grass in front of him at all times. We've had a bit of a hectic schedule for the last three weeks, with two shows and an XC schooling session, so I probably need to cut back a bit there. Still, I try to haul to at least one, sometimes two, lessons per week, so that will be an ongoing concern. Hopefully we can come up with a long-term maintenance plan that works for him and doesn't stress him out too much.
At least Costco carries large bottles of ranitidine for cheap? Because seriously, I may start taking it myself.