Common Equine Eye Conditions

If you have ever dealt with an equine eye problem, you know the importance of early recognition and appropriate treatment. Here are some common conditions and how your veterinarian might manage them.
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Common Equine Eye Conditions
Horses are vulnerable to eye trauma because of the size and location of their eyes. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Brett Robinson

Eye problems in horses are extremely common. Last year alone, our group practice performed 100 eye exams on horses experiencing signs of eye disease or trauma. If you have ever dealt with an equine eye problem, you know the importance of early recognition and appropriate treatment. Here are some common conditions and how your veterinarian might manage them.

The Equine Eye Exam

To begin an eye exam, your vet will review your horse’s medical history. Then he or she will evaluate the horse for comfort and eye symmetry, examine the structures surrounding the eyeball, assess vision and reflexes, apply a fluorescein stain, and examine the back of the inside of the eye using a magnifying lens with a special light source. Certain conditions involve measuring intraocular pressures and dilating the pupil. In all cases treatment goals are to preserve vision, decrease pain, and prevent infection and recurrence.

Corneal Ulcers

Horses are particularly vulnerable to ocular trauma because their eyes are large and positioned on the sides of the head. Corneal ulcers are one of the most common eye conditions caused by trauma. The cornea is a transparent membrane in the front of the eye. Fluorescein stain dye adheres to defects, making them more visible. Corneal pathology (disease or damage) generally results in opacity, and various color changes can accompany this process. Other signs include squinting, eyelid swelling, and discharge

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Written by:

Brett Robinson, DVM, is an associate veterinarian at San Dieguito Equine Group, in San Marcos, California. Her professional interests include acupuncture, regenerative medicine, and emergency care.

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