Equine Eye Education

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Last week I was up to my eyeballs in, well, eyeballs. The American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Focus on Ophthalmology seminar took place in Raleigh, N.C., so I spent the week learning about the equine eye and related disorders. Although much of the information presented had a pretty (read: extremely) technical nature, I quite enjoyed furthering my knowledge.

The seminar included information about eye problems in horses of all ages, from congenital problems found in foals to common anomalies typically identified in senior horses. For example, senile cataracts are a common problem in old horses. In fact, presenter Andy Matthews, BVM&S, PhD, Dipl. ECEIM, ACVO (Hon), FRCVS, explained that it’s rare to find a horse over the age of about 18 without some degree of cataract development. Although there’s not currently anything we can do about senile cataracts, he said they don’t typically cause any major problems for the horses aside from potential visual deficits as they develop.

Similarly, Matthews said many old horses have some form of senile retinopathy. For example, 99% of horses over the age of 18 will have generalized depigmentation and/or linear hyperpigmentation in the back of their eyes, he said. In many cases, the most severe problem this condition causes is visual deficits in low-lighting, he added.

Even though equine recurrent uveitis (ERU) is found in horses of most ages, I listened intently to the information presented in the lecture focusing on this frustrating disorder, because it had personal significance: my 26-year-old Appaloosa gelding suffers from the disease

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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