Editor’s Note: This article is part of TheHorse.com’s ongoing coverage of topics presented at the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Focus on Ophthalmology conference, held Sept. 6-8 in Raleigh, N.C.


An underlying theme was apparent when a worldwide authority on equine ophthalmology presented a lecture the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Focus on Ophthalmology conference: "Horses can’t do anything easily." Specifically, in this case, the natural mechanisms in the horse’s eye do not always cooperate when veterinarians are working to repair corneal defects.

At the conference, held Sept. 6-8 in Raleigh, N.C., Dennis Brooks, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVO, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, reviewed the challenges the equine eye presents when faced with corneal ulcers and/or ulcerative keratitis, and methods that can be used to improve the outcomes for patients.

The Cornea Reviewed

Brooks began with a brief review of the equine cornea and the types of ulcers that can develop on the equine eye.

"The normal equine cornea is about 2,000 square millimeters, and about 1 millimeter thick," he relayed. "Despite that thinness, it’s very, very strong tissue. And the equine cornea heals tremendously well, but the diseases that attack the cornea are some of the post powerful in comparative ophthalmology."

When injured, the corneal epithelium grows at rate of approximately one millimeter per day, starting from the outside edges of the eye (the limbus) a