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


Eye looks Dry or Dull


Tear production is critical for eye health and function, and is a product of secretion by glands in the tissues lining the eye.

A dull or dry eye can be a sign of an underlying eye disease like glaucoma or equine recurrent uveitis (ERU, Moon Blindness). Rarely, nerve damage or injury results in dysfunction of the tear producing glands, a condition known as Keratitis Sicca (KCS or Dry Eye).

Keep in mind that the eye surface is also reflective of an animal's general level of hydration. So a dehydrated horse may have a dull, dry looking eye.

  • Code Red

    Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours
    • If you notice other problems with the eye or the eye seems inflamed and painful.
    • Most eye problems are considered veterinary emergencies.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If the signs are very mild and the eye appears normal otherwise.
You also might be observing
Very Common
Less Common
more observations

your role


What To Do

Given the importance of your horse's sight, do not allow any eye condition to continue or worsen over time. Assess your horse's eyes and compare the dry eye to the normal eye. What is the difference? Perform the menace response skill to assess your horse's vision.

Consider the horse's general health - are there other signs of dehydration? Share your findings and concerns with your vet.

your vet's role

Your vet may recommend that you apply saline (artificial tears) or an ophthalmic ointment to the eye to help keep it moist until they are able to evaluate the horse. A fly mask may provide shade and protect the eye from insects and debris.

Along with an ophthalmic exam, your vet may perform specific diagnostic tests to assess eye moistness and tear production.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does your horse seem normal otherwise?
  • How does it compare to the other one?
  • How long have you noticed this?
  • What is the horse's age, sex, breed and history?
  • What specifically are you seeing that makes you think your horse's eye is dry?
  • Has the horse had any other signs of a problem?
  • Does the horse's vision seem normal to you?
  • Is the horse drinking water?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

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