Your horse's eyes should be clear, bright, and the lids tight, with the inside of the lid pale pink and moist. Tearing should be minimal with perhaps only a droplet at the corner of the eye. Image #1 shows a healthy horse's eye.
Treatment is necessary if:
- An eyelid is cut or torn.
- The lids are swollen.
- Obvious damage to the eye itself.
- There is a white film-either over the whole eye or in spots.
- The eye or any surrounding tissue including sclera and lids appears red and inflamed.
- There are tears running down the horse's face which may indicate a torn or blocked tear duct.
- Any other copious discharge.
- There are tumors growing on the lid.
- In foals, turned under eyelids that cause the eyelashes to rub against the eye.
Image #2 shows a horse's eye that needs treatment.
First Aid for Eye Injuries and Infections
If your horse has an eye injury or infection:
- You should have salt, or saline solution in your horse's first aid kit. Clean up the area very gently with a saline solution. If you don't have one on hand (like the saline solution for contact lens wearers) you can make some yourself. The ratio is about 1/4 tsp of table salt to a cup of lukewarm water. It should taste like tears.
- Put a fly mask on the horse to keep flies off the eye area.
- If possible keep your horse in subdued light such as his stall until the veterinarian arrives.
How the Veterinarian May Help
Rips and tears in the horse's eyelids should be attended to by a veterinarian so the lid can stitched if necessary. The vet will also check for damage to the lens and anything that may be lodged in the eye (splinters, awns from grasses or grit).
The veterinarian will probably give you an ointment or gel to apply to the eye. In some cases he may draw a vial of the horse's blood and make a solution from it that you will irrigate the eye with. With all medications make sure that you follow the veterinarian's instructions to the letter and be scrupulously clean as you apply any dressings or ointments.
How You Can Help Your Horse HealJust because you see marked improvement quickly, don't stop medication until the full course is up. Stopping treatment before the infection or injury is completely healed can result in the infection flaring up again.
When working with a horse with an eye problem be aware that he may have obscured vision and be a little more spooky than usual. Talk gently so you don't surprise him if you walk up on a 'blind side'.
Preventing Eye InjuriesYour horse's environment should be as dust free as possible. Make sure that sharp edges on water troughs, metal buildings, pipes or other obstacles are covered or inaccessible. Pound in or pull any old nails that may be protruding from fences or other structures.
Many injuries are caused when horses are playing or scraping and this is almost unavoidable. Just take care to make your horse's home as safe as possible.