Can Thermography Play a Part in Equine Gastric Ulcer Identification?

The cause of gastric ulceration in horses is multifactorial and the term equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) describes a group of diseases in foals and horses. These include erosions and ulcerations in the distal oesophagus, non-glandular and glandular stomachs and proximal duodenum of horses.

Hind Gut Ulcers

Extensive research by Franklin L. Pellegrini, DVM has highlighted the challenges that hindgut ulcers pose. Performance horses are often identified as having colonic ulcers, or lesions found in the colon, these horses are commonly known to already be suffering from gastric ulcers.

Diet has a large impact on the hindgut. Some current diets and feeding practices are overloaded with large amounts of simple carbohydrates, like those found in sugar and starches. When they reach the hindgut undigested, they interfere with the good bacteria that work to ferment fibre, this can cause bacteria to produce lactic acid. This raises the overall acidity of the hindgut (which is a lowering of the pH) and produces a condition called hindgut acidosis. This process has an inflammatory effect on the hindgut. Above we have a set of thermograms used during the 1st physical examination of the patient by the treating veterinarian. Also included in the initial examination phase history was taken, a physical examination and an endoscopic examination of the stomach was performed.


Management of gastric ulceration should include control or modification of risk factors. In this case, the patients normal day included daily periods stood in the box without access to forage, which increased the production of gastric acidity. Continuous feeding was therefore introduced as was continuous access to pasture. The reduction of grains from the diet as well as the removal of Alfa-A was also applied and this resulted in a reduction in symptoms as is seen in the thermograms take six weeks, post the first examination and scans.

In the first set of thermograms, there is a clear increased thermal pattern which is associated with hindgut inflammation. In the second set of thermograms taken 6 weeks post modification of risk factors, change of husbandry and diet, the qualitative measurement shows clearly a reduction in inflammation. Quantitatively there was a decrease of 6-degree Celsius in the second scans compared to the first scans take 6 weeks earlier.

Ongoing research in this area is actively being undertaken to say definitively if Thermography can help to identify the presence of gastrointestinal inflammation.

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