Equine Eye Injuries

Corneal ulcerations can be especially painful, and your veterinarian might choose medication to control the pain issues. (Courtesy photo)

By Garrett Metcalf, DVM

The eyes of a horse are one of its most attractive features, and, for obvious reasons, a very important organ to protect. Horses are known to be prone to ocular diseases, and they are one of the most common health issues that horses and horse owners encounter.

Being prey animals, horses have wide-set eyes in their skull, with a large field of view for protection from predators. This also makes their eyes vulnerable to injury, trauma, infection and also fractures of the orbital rim. There are many causes of ocular disease in horses, but this article will focus on the basic and most common types injuries and disease processes that occur.
Ocular Trauma

Almost all owners feel their horse is accident prone, and, in many cases, they are not stretching the truth very far. As prey animals, their first instinct is to get away as fast as possible, sometimes no matter the cost. During these periods of instinctual survival mode, injury to the eye can occur. Injuries to the eye can be very benign to catastrophic where no medical or surgical intervention can save the eye.

On the other hand, seemingly small injuries can turn into major ocular issues if not addressed in a timely manner. Ocular trauma directly to the eye or to the tissue around the eye should be treated as an emergent issue that needs to be properly examined by a veterinarian to determine the full extent of the damage. Common injuries are direct blunt force trauma that traumatizes the eye and the surrounding ocular tissues.

These can cause bleeding within the chambers of the eye leading to inflammation, fibrin accumulation and scarring of the pupil to the iris called synechia. With early treatment using topical drugs to dilate the pupil and anti-inflammatories, these injuries can be successfully treated with good prognosis for vision. Some cases require a medication to be injected into the eye to dissolve the fibrin to prevent complications of synechia. Fibrin is an acute phase protein glue-like substance that leaks out from blood vessels and can cause damage if left in the eye without proper treatment.

To read more pick up a copy of the November 2018 NTFR issue. To subscribe call 940-872-5922.