A dramatically swollen equine eye is hard to overlook, but the earliest stages of ocular inflammation can be subtle. If you suspect your horse’s eye is getting puffy or painful, try this simple trick.
With a helper to hold him still, stand directly in front of your horse’s face so that you can see both of his eyes at once. Then focus on the eyelashes. Does one set point downward more than the other? That’s a very early sign of trouble---it means the area around the eye is swollen just enough to alter the angle of the lashes, but not enough to be otherwise noticeable.
Call your veterinarian if you notice this change in your horse’s lashes. Early treatment of eye problems can make a big difference in the outcomes. If your horse has a history of uveitis or other eye problems, your veterinarian may want to come out immediately to make a diagnosis and start treatment. On the other hand, if your horse has never had any eye trouble, and he isn’t squinting or tearing, your veterinarian may ask you to monitor the situation and call back with updates. The problem may be nothing more than a minor irritation that will pass on its own.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #453, June 2015.