What are they?
Horse's eyes are large and, unlike the rest of the eye, the cornea is exposed, which means that it is relatively easily damaged. The cornea itself is made up of 4 layers and it is when damage to the second layer occurs that ulcers develop. Unfortunately, these are also prone to secondary infection. Ulcers are common!
- Tears streaming down the cheek
- Eyelids partially or completely closed (due to the pain)
- Cornea can appear dull or hazy
- Redness in the eye
- Swollen eyelids
Injury to the eye can be caused when a foreign object comes into contact with the eye; mud, dust, hay, chaff or any number of other things can cause damage if they are blown into the eye. Trauma or a scratch from a branch can also cause an ulcer to form.
Call the vet. Treating the eye early will minimise the long term effects. While waiting for the vet the horse should be removed from bright light, dust, wind and flies, which can all exacerbate the problem. The ulcer may be immediately obvious. If not, the vet will thoroughly examine your horse and may use a fluorescent stain to identify the presence of an ulcer and its exact location. Some horses will need to be sedated for an examination because eye damage can cause them to become head shy!
Untreated ulcers can cause serious damage to the eye and potentially lead to loss of the eye totally. However, most ulcers can be treated with antibiotic drops or an ointment. If the ulcer is difficult to heal a biopsy can be taken to discover if any bacteria or fungi is present. In some cases surgery is needed.
Fly masks can help prevent some objects entering the eye. Also, make sure there are no sharp objects in the stable, but horses will be horses and you can't protect them totally!
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Until next time!