Soothing Itchy Eyes

My 20-year-old Appaloosa mare seems to have increasingly puffy, swollen eyes each spring and summer.

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Q:My 20-year-old Appaloosa mare seems to have increasingly puffy, swollen eyes each spring and summer. She has white sclera and pigmented skin on her lids. I think the problem is allergy-related, and it seems to be getting worse just the last couple of years. She’s kept outdoors, and when it’s buggy she wears a face mask, but this doesn’t seem to help much. We have cottonwood, alder, and all sorts of other pollen-producing trees around us, and I feed her loose hay. Neither her son nor daughter suffer from this problem; both of them are dark, with black-skinned eyelids and solid eyes. She doesn’t have any ulcers.

I have used ointment and drops that my veterinarian had made by a pharmacist; however, they don’t seem to offer much relief. Is it safe to use commercial human eye allergy drops?


A:Appaloosas seem to have much more active immune systems than other horses. Blepharitis or lid puffiness can be caused by allergic, infectious, and neoplastic (abnormal growth) processes. Since this horse’s eyes have been found to be free of corneal ulcers and uveitis, it follows that allergies or insect bites could be aggravating the problem. I would suggest investigating these possibilities. Eye drops by themselves will do little to help lid swelling, therefore systemically administered medications are needed to reach therapeutic levels in the eyelids

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Written by:

Dennis E. Brooks, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVO, is a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Florida. He has lectured extensively, nationally and internationally, in comparative ophthalmology and glaucoma, and has more than 140 refereed publications. He is a recognized authority on canine glaucoma, and infectious keratitis, corneal transplantation, and glaucoma of horses.

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