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


Swelling around Both Eyes or Eyelids


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.

  • 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.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
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your role


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.

your vet's role

Your vet uses examination and possibly laboratory blood work to determine whether this is an allergic response or is caused by something else.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • Do you see signs of swelling anywhere else?
  • Is there swelling of your horse's limbs or muzzle?
  • Does the horse seem to be breathing rapidly or abnormally?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

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

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Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP