Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Eye looks Sunken

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    Code Green - Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

    • If the eye appears otherwise normal.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
    • If the horse is very old.

    Sunken eyes can be a sign of dehydration or severe weight loss. The normally well-hydrated tissues that surround and support the eye lose their mass and the eye sinks. This observation is to be distinguished from a related observation – the eyeball actually appearing smaller or shrunken.

    Older horses and emaciated horses lose fat behind their eyes causing the eyes to appear sunken. The loss of fat and muscle tissue causes the eyeball to sit deeper in the socket and can even lead to dust and debris becoming trapped around the eye and under the eyelids.

    WHAT TO DO

    Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the eyes (look for reddening, squinting or watering), and the horse’s general hydration.

    Gently wipe away any discharge or debris from the eye with a moist towel. Use saline to irrigate the eye if there is discharge or foreign material. Consider the use of a fly mask. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

    WHAT YOUR VET DOES

    Your vet will assess general health and hydration, and the eye itself. They will consider the various potential causes for this observation and the tests necessary to rule these conditions out.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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