H2 Blockers inhibitors - Antagonists

H₂ inhibitors and/or antagonists act by competing with histamine for histamine type-2 receptor sites on the parietal cell and therefore blocking histamine-stimulated gastric acid secretion. The two most popular H₂ inhibitors and/or antagonists used in horses are cimetidine, marketed as Tagamet® and ranitidine, marketed as Zantac®. H₂ inhibitors/antagonists can be used with antacids like Nutrient Buffer®, but is likely not needed. Nutrient Buffer®, uses time-release ingredients; it is effective and reliable all by itself. Nutrient Buffer® is a natural prostaglandin analogue (similar to lots of pasture for your horse).

Drugs have many drawbacks, and H₂ blockers have some unique ones. Histamine H₂ blockers do exactly what their name implies, they block the histamine from telling the acid producing cells to do their job. The result is another very effective acid blocking drug. When your horse builds a tolerance after prolonged daily use, you find yourself continually increasing the dosage to achieve the same results.

Common drawbacks of H₂ blockers:

  1. Inability to completely sterilize the food, allowing overgrowth of the cecum and small intestine of improper bacteria.
  2. Inability to completely digest the food, causing nutritional deficiencies, particularly mineral deficiencies. These minerals are needed for the functioning of enzyme and hormone systems of the body, so these are also compromised.
  3. Predisposition to leaky gut syndrome, microscopic holes in the digestive tract to the peritoneal area where they should not be. The gut becomes more like a sieve than an enclosed system. This allows partially digested foods, parasites and microbes into the internal areas of the body, causing infection, immune and autoimmune responses and also neurological syndromes like EPM. Neurological compromise usually starts out on the right side of the body, usually the right hind, as the cecum has the thinnest walls of the digestive system and tends to leak first.

These side effects are very accurately described in the PDR/Physician’s Desk Reference for humans, as these drugs have been used for humans much longer than for horses.

Other side effects reported are: headaches, abdominal discomfort and pain, agitation, anemia, changes in liver function, constipation, depression, diarrhea, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, hair loss, hallucinations, heart block, hepatitis, inflammation of pancreas, involuntary movements, irregular heartbeat, jaundice, joint pain, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, rash, reduced white blood cells, reversible mental confusion, severe allergic reactions, sleepiness, slow heartbeat, swollen face and throat and vertigo.

The driving factors that lead to a horse suffering from excessive digestive acidity in the first place are not addressed when solely using these drugs. Re-evaluate your feed program, and water quality, if you are considering use of H₂ blockers, inhibitors or antagonists drugs.


Equine Ulcers & Colic in Horses

Diagnosing Ulcers in Horses

Ulcers are common in all kinds of horses. Learn how to spot the signs of a potential ulcer, what you can do, and how stomach scoping can be helpful.

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H₂ Blockers

Drugs have many shortcomings, and H₂ Blockers have some unique ones. When your horse builds a tolerance after prolonged daily use, you find yourself continually increasing the dosage to achieve the same results.

Read more »

Proton Pump Inhibitors

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) shut down excess acid production in the stomach. Accurate dosing can be very tough to estimate, and excessive use can lead to poor digestion of food and longer term health problems.

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