Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Swelling around Both Eyes or Eyelids

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

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

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

  • If the horse seems particularly distressed by the problem.
  • If you feel the problem is severe or has come on suddenly.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.

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

  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.
  • If the swelling is mild or moderate, and not increasing rapidly.

When the areas around both eyes are swollen (not just one eye), it is usually an indication of an allergic response. Often, an insect sting or spider bite will cause this pattern of swelling on the face. It is also often seen in combination with hives. In this case, the horse’s muzzle will also be somewhat swollen.

WHAT TO DO

Assess your horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE). Look for skin bumps and swelling of the lower legs, and pay particular attention to heart rate and rectal temperature. Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

If the swelling is severe or worsens, if your horse is breathing rapidly, having difficulty breathing, or seems depressed, this could be a sign of severe allergic reaction. Call your vet immediately because a combination of these signs occasionally progresses into a full-blown allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) that could be life-threatening.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Your vet uses examination and possibly laboratory blood work to determine whether this is an allergic response or is caused by something else.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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