Eye Infections in Horses

Eye infections are common in horses and can negatively impact training and quality of life. However, many eye infections can be prevented. Dr. Lucien Vallone, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, provided some insight on preserving your horse’s vision.

“When dealing with eye infections, early intervention is important,” Vallone said. “One way to help preserve your horse’s overall eye health is to report any changes in eye condition to a veterinarian immediately. A healthy eye should not have excessive tearing, squinting, or any ocular opacity that causes the eye to change from its normal coloration.”

Vallone said that some eye infections, such as those of the cornea, can be caused by bacteria and fungi. Other serious eye conditions include tumors of the ocular surface and eyelids, with the most common tumor being squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer.

Another common cause of eye infections includes Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU), a disease characterized by eye inflammation. Vallone said the damage from this disease is progressive and can lead to scarring within the eye, cataracts, glaucoma, and even blindness. This disease has no cure, but it can be treated by reducing the amount of inflammation in the eye, as needed.

Many eye infections also can be caused by hazards in the horse’s environment, such as excessive dust, sharp fence posts, or other obstacles. It is important to check your horse’s eyes daily to prevent any infection from worsening.

Without treatment, eye infections and diseases could lead to serious conditions, including blindness.

“Our biggest fear of not treating an equine eye condition is that we could miss the opportunity to preserve vision and comfort,” Vallone said. “Early intervention is best and can help lead to a positive outcome.”

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.