What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Blue Eye, Iris is Bluish, Lacks Pigment


Horses with blue eyes (lack of pigment of the iris) do not necessarily have any more eye-related problems than those with pigmented irises. However, horses with blue eyes surrounded by pink eyelid skin are predisposed to developing squamous cell carcinoma of both the eye and eyelids. This is especially true at high altitudes, where ultraviolet light is more intense.

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    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources

your role


What To Do

Preferentially select horses with pigment around their eyelids. Monitor unpigmented skin around eyes for changes that might indicate cancer, and contact your vet with your findings and concerns.

Protect horses that do have pink skin around the eye by trying to reduce ultraviolet light exposure. Use ultraviolet light blocking fly masks and the horse out at night instead of the day. Tattooing the eyelids may be a possibility to discuss with your vet.

your vet's role

When your vet performs routine work on your horse, they may pay particular attention to eyes without pigment around them, examining closely for cancer and pre-cancerous changes.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Can you see anything else going on with the eye(s)?
  • Does the horse lack pigment (have pink skin) around the eye?
  • How old is the horse?
  • Are flies bothering the horse's eyes?
  • Are one or both eyes affected?
  • Do the eyes appear irritated?
  • Do you notice the eye watering or any discharge?
  • Do you notice the horse squinting or holding the eye closed?
  • Does the horse wear a fly mask?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP