Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Rubbing or Trying to Scratch Eye

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If you notice any change in appearance of the eye itself.
  • If the horse seems particularly distressed by the problem.

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If the eye seems normal in appearance but the behavior persists.

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

  • If the signs are very mild and the eye appears normal otherwise.

Conditions causing pain and irritation to the eye or the skin around the eye may cause a horse to rub, itch or scratch this area. This may cause additional trauma, creating a cycle of inflammation and itchiness that worsens the disease process and could severely damage the eye and compromise vision. Often, this can result in damage to the clear front surface of the eye (a corneal ulcer).

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s eye. Compare the affected eye to the other eye. Look for swelling, tearing, debris or trauma. Look for any change in appearance of the eyeball itself. You may irrigate the affected eye with saline solution to remove debris. Use a warm wet towel to clean the skin around the eye.

Given the importance of your horse’s sight, immediately share all of your findings and concerns with your vet.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet will conduct an eye (ophthalmic) exam, and carefully examine the area around the eye. They may use fluorescein stain to determine whether a corneal ulcer is present.

While you wait for your vet, keep your horse calm. If you are concerned about flies or airborne debris, place a fly mask on your horse.

Helpful Terms & Topics in HSVGWritten, Reviewed or Shared by Experts in Equine Health

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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