Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Eye has Foreign Body or Material in It

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

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

  • If the horse seems particularly distressed by the problem.
  • If you notice other problems with the eye or the eye seems inflamed and painful.
  • Most eye problems are considered veterinary emergencies.

Occasionally, dirt, hay or other material becomes trapped in the pink membranous sac surrounding the eye (conjunctival sac). This causes irritation to the eye, and often causes squinting, eye watering, and face rubbing. If the material is not naturally flushed from the eye by tears, irritation (conjunctivitis) and corneal injury (corneal ulcers) can result.


You may be able to see the foreign material by looking at the eye, or by spreading the lids slightly with your fingers. You can try flushing the eye out with saline. Use a steady stream, and let the horse blink and pass the third eyelid over the cornea. Give the horse a few moments to work on it themselves, and then repeat.

If you are unable to flush the eye, or this does not work and signs of irritation continue, contact your vet right away. Remember that eye problems are considered veterinary emergencies.


Your vet may sedate the horse and numb the nerves that supply the eye, to facilitate exam and treatment. Fluorescein staining is usually done to ensure no injury has occurred to the cornea. Whether follow up care is needed will depend on the severity of the problem and the success of treatment.

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

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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