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


Eye has Foreign Body or Material in It


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.

  • 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.

your role


What To Do

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.

What Not To Do

Do not apply steroid containing ophthalmic ointments or drops without your vet's direction.
Do not take a "wait and see" approach with this sort of eye problem. They can rapidly and dramatically worsen.

your vet's role

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.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Do you notice any change in the surface of the eye?
  • Describe specifically what you see.
  • Is the other eye normal?
  • Are you able to effectively flush the eye?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

Treatments Your Vet May Recommend

A way to resolve the condition or diagnosis. Resolving the underlying cause or treating the signs of disease (symptomatic treatment)

Very Common
more treatments

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP