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Eye Diseases in Horses

[Photo of a horse eye]

The normal horse's eye is rich brown with the black pupil. A milky patch indicates cataract or some other form of ailment. Corneal ulcers and Uveitis are the most common eye diseases in horses. Corneal ulcers usually respond well to treatment. Sometimes they can be deep and require extensive surgery to preserve the horse's eye. Uveitis is an inflammation of the eye and causes much pain. It can occur along with the corneal ulcer and should be treated as soon as possible.

Corneal Ulcers

Cornea is a curved transparent portion of the eyeball that covers the iris and the pupil from penetration by dust and allows light into the eye. The iris is the colored part of the eye that controls the size of the pupil. The cornea contains almost no blood vessels, but many nurves. When the cornea is damaged by infection or trauma, a milky patch may appear which may result in loss of vision. Inflammation of the cornea may result from viral infections, such as equine influenza (a viral infection causing fever, coughing, and respiratory difficulty; some cause abortion in mares). The main causes of ulcers are infection, poor blood circulation, nerve damage, trauma, nutritional imbalances and cancers. Recent studies show that eye infections such as conjunctivitis, keratitis, and uveitis may be caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes resulting from direct exposure of the eyes of susceptible animals to high numbers of the pathogen. Listeriosis affects wild and domestic animals as well as humans.

Corneal ulcers are infected wounds with potential risks to impair your horse vision if left untreated. Discharge from the affected eye with some builtup in the corner of the eyelid. The eyeball appears cloudy, fine red lines in the cornea which is normally clear. The eye might be very sensitive when the horse clamps down his eyelid. This is an emergency and you should call your veterinarian immediately.

Equine recurrent uveitis

Equine recurrent uveitis (ERU), also known as periodic ophthalmia or moon blindness, is one of the most common causes of blindness in horses. Classic treatment of ERU includes mydriatics, corticosteroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Despite vigorous topical and systemic treatment, however, in many cases, the prognosis for preserving vision remains poor. Despite extensive clinical research, the causes of equine recurrent uveitis (ERU) are still unknown. Recent studies show the presence of leptospires bacteria and antibodies in the affected horses. (Leptospirosis takes place by direct contact with urine of infected animals or by indirect contact with contaminated food or water).

Glaucoma is a disease associated with elevated pressure within the eye. Symptoms include cloudy cornea, dilated pupils, enlarged eyeball and inflammation of the iris. If left untreated, glaucoma leads to retina and optic nerve damage and blindness. The equine eye gets its nutrition from fluids that run through special pathways in and out.

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