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Eye Injuries in Horses Eyes are delicate and intricate organs that provide animals with information on their environment through depth perception, light and dark, visualising images, and motion detection. Eyes are vital in an animal's ability to hunt their prey or for an animal to avoid their predators! The horse's eye has developed many unique features to suit their special needs. As grazing animals horses need to have wide peripheral vision in order to watch out for approaching predators and this is achieved by the positioning of the eyes. With eyes on the side of the head, horses are able to see a huge panoramic field of vision of about 350°. The only areas of blindness are just in front of the nose and behind the tail. To further avoid predators, horse eyes have improved detection of motion and the ability to function well during both the night and day. However, a significant disadvantage to the laterally positioned eye is the increased chance of injury. They are prone to foreign bodies, such as grass seeds, trauma from bumps, scratches, and infections. Surrounding structures are also commonly injured, such as cuts along the eyelid margins. Often the first sign of eye injury is a slight drooping of the eyelid or rolling inward of the eyelashes. As the eye pain progresses, the eye will tend to remain partially or completely closed. There may also be a watery or mucous discharge from the eye, redness of the conjunctiva, or swelling of the eyelids. Injury to the cornea may result in swelling of the tissues and a cloudy appearance developing on the surface of the eye. Eye injuries can cause blindness and debilitating pain. It is important that they are seen to promptly by your veterinarian, as you cannot accurately rule out serious conditions with the naked eye. Treatment may be as simple as applying ointment but some conditions may require aggressive treatment or surgery.

Signs of eye injury and pain ­ half closed eye with swollen eyelid

A large corneal ulcer with subsequent swelling of the cornea and large blood vessels growing in to heal the injury. This horse required surgery to prevent the eye from rupturing and allow optimum healing.

A severe corneal ulcer where there is rapid breakdown of the normal tissue (called a `melting ulcer'). Requires rapid, aggressive treatment and often requires surgical grafting of tissue to prevent eye from rupturing.

Severe swelling around the eye after horse was kicked in the face. Examination revealed a fractured eye socket which required surgery to repair the broken fragments.


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