Horse Eye Emergencies

Eye Injuries and Treatments


Eye Injuries are  a Veterinary EMERGENCY

Of all the animal species commonly treated by veterinarians, the cornea of the horse is the slowest to heal, is the most likely to become infected, and has the potential to have the poorest final outcome.

Most cases begin with an initial trauma to the cornea (corneal ulceration), but secondary infection is common.


Clinical Signs

  • Increased tear production (tearing eye)
  • Completely or half closed eyelids (blepharospasm)
  • Sensitivity to any light, by closing eye (photophobia)
  • Red and inflamed looking conjunctiva (white area of eye)
  • Blue/cloudy appearance of the eye (corneal oedema)
  • Trauma to the surface of the eye (cornea) can look like: a divet in the surface, a cut, or a slit)
  • After trauma has occurred to the cornea, blood vessels may try to grow towards/into the defect. These blood vessels are good for aiding in the healing of the ulcer.


If your horse looks as though they have a sore eye, apply a fly mask/veil. This keeps excess sunlight, flys and dust out of the eye. You can even apply extra material to completely block out the sunlight to the affected side, the horse will cope fine with only one eye at this time.


Routine Treatments

  • Uncomplicated ulcers receiving early appropriate treatment – controlling pain and inflammation and preventing secondary complications (eg bacterial infection). Usually treatment is in the form of multiple eye drops/ointments, possibly systemic antibiotics (penicillin) and or oral anti-inflammatories (eg bute).
  • Complicated ulcers – chronic ulcers that have not have received proper veterinary attention or that have not responded to treatment, may occur in the loss of sight to the horse, complete malfunction of the eye and may require the eye to be removed. Apart from the obvious massive initial loss, most horses do cope quite well with one eye. If there is still hope that the eye can be treated somewhat successfully, a treatment tube and or temporary tarsorraphy (stitching eyelids together) may be a treatment option.
  • A treatment tube is a tube that is inserted beside the eye, coming out through the eyelid of the affected eye and stitched in place. It enables the owner to inject eye drops through the tubing, which is then delivered to the horse’s eye with ease multiple times without having to physically put drops into the eye.


  • A temporary tarsorraphy is a temporary suture that keeps the affected eye’s eyelids closed. The conjunctiva (white/pinkish skin surrounding the eye) acts as a natural bandaid and aids in the healing of the cornea (surface of the eye).
  • Some ulcers may be suitable candidates to perform a conjunctival graft. This is where a very thin piece of conjunctiva is dissected and stitched back over the ulcer defect. This is the best natural bandaid that the ulcer can have. If successful, the flap will either gradually recede, or else the horse will just have a scar where the surgery occurred on the cornea. This surgery does require the horse to undergo a general anaesthetic and is slightly more costly than the other therapies, but it may also mean the difference between the horse having a functioning eye or not.

REMEMBER eye problems/concerns in horses IS a big deal and where possible, veterinary attention should be sought immediately.

NOTE: OPTICLOX into the eye of a horse with any form of eye problem can actually be detrimental rather than helpful to the eye!!!