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Diseases of the Eyes and Ears. INAG 120 – Equine Health Management December 5, 2011. The Equine Eye. The Equine Eye. Recognize the normal Ocular – pertaining to the eye Periocular – area around the eye Examine eye in bright sunlight or shaded area with flashlight. Eye Examination.

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diseases of the eyes and ears

Diseases of the Eyes and Ears

INAG 120 – Equine Health Management

December 5, 2011

the equine eye1
The Equine Eye
  • Recognize the normal
  • Ocular – pertaining to the eye
  • Periocular – area around the eye
  • Examine eye in bright sunlight or shaded area with flashlight
eye examination
Eye Examination
  • Overall appearance of head
    • Erectness of ears
    • Symmetrical eyelids?
      • Appearance
      • Position
  • Eye Sockets
    • Assess placement of eyes in sockets
    • Symmetrical?
eye examination1
Eye Examination…
  • Eyelids
    • Lightly touch
    • Symmetrical?
    • Make note of normal pigmentation of third eyelid
    • Third eyelid – visiblewhen horse retracts eye into socket
eye examination2
Eye Examination…
  • Anterior Chamber
    • Space between the cornea and colored portion of the eye (iris)
    • Filled with transparent fluid
    • Symmetrical?
  • Conjuctiva
    • Mucous membrane lining inner surface of eyelid and outer surface of sclera
    • Should be moist and shiny
eye examination3
Eye Examination…
  • Iris, Pupil and Lens
    • Iris = eye color
    • Pupil (horizontal hole) should constrict with light
    • Corpora nigra above and below pupil
    • Pupil should be dark
  • Posterior Chamber / Eye
    • “Fundus”
    • Requires specialinstrumentation
    • Contains “tapetum”
recognizing the abnormal
Recognizing the Abnormal
  • PAIN
    • Blepharospasm
    • Photophobia
    • Epiphora
    • Redness
    • Milky-white color
specific problems of the eye
Specific Problems of the Eye
  • Eyelids:
    • Entropion
    • Lacerations
    • Pockets of inflammation
    • Tumors
      • Sarcoid
      • Squamous cell carcinoma
      • Melanoma
    • Tetanus/Lockjaw
specific problems of the eye1
Specific Problems of the Eye
  • Conjunctiva:
    • Dermoid
    • Conjunctivitis
      • Redness and swelling
      • Irritating rather than painful
      • If pain is evident – may be due to another problem
      • Dirt/foreign materials
      • Flush with mild eyewash
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
    • Angiosarcoma highly malignant
specific problems of the eye2
Specific Problems of the Eye
  • Cornea:
    • Congenital dermoid
    • Trauma = corneal ulcer
    • Treatment usually requires antibiotic application
      • Be sure antibiotic used is Optic
    • Puncture
      • Eye will appear partially collapsed
      • Requires immediate surgical intervention
specific problems of the eye3
Specific Problems of the Eye
  • Iris and Ciliary Body:
    • Uveitis
    • Iris Cysts
      • Cause iris to bulge forward
      • Related to Silver Dapple coat coloration!
  • Inflammation of iris
recurrent uveitis


Classic appearance of long-standing uveitis. Note the scarring of the iris and the white reflective cataract.

Recurrent Uveitis
  • Aka Periodic Opthalmia, Moon Blindness
  • Clinical signs:
    • Acute pain
    • Redness to eyes and lids
    • Darkened iris
    • Iris appears moth-eaten
  • Multiple Causes
    • Leptospirosis main cause
    • Onchocerchiasis
  • Treatments
  • Complete recovery unlikely
specific problems of the eye4
Specific Problems of the Eye
  • Lens:
    • Flattened, transparent & malleable marble behind the iris (helps focus images
    • Diseased lens is usually opaque
    • Cataracts
      • Progressive in nature
      • Congenital in foals  more successfully removed
specific problems of the eye5
Specific Problems of the Eye
  • Retina/Choroid:
    • Usually go undetected until blindness is evident
    • Appaloosas & Congenital Stationary Night Blindness
      • Autosomal recessive gene
      • Malfunction of motion-detecting retinal cells (rods) which function best in low light
      • Day vision = normal
when to call the vet
When to Call the Vet…
  • Increased discharge
  • Squinting and/or excessive blinking
  • Cloudy appearance
  • Vision problems
  • Blood in the eye
  • Any foreign object inthe eye or eyelids
  • Any sign of tumor development on the eye or eyelids
  • Call the vet early – don’t wait
  • Only remove a foreign object if it’s confined to the eyelid
  • Flush dirt, ash, sand or plant material with water or saline
  • Treat chemicals in eyes as you would humans
    • Flush with lots of water
    • Call the vet
  • Did I mention to call the vet?
don ts
  • Don’t ignore eye problems
  • Be careful using leftover ointment (some ointments can make problems worse)
    • Triple antibiotic probably ok; avoid atropine or steroid until vet advises
  • Don’t remove foreign object from eyeball itself, let a vet do it.
head shaking
Head Shaking
  • Poorly understood disease
  • Horse may flick, nod and/or shake head
  • Causes:
    • Behavioral
    • Ill-fitting tack
    • Teeth
    • Middle Ear disorders
    • Ear Mites
    • Eye Disorders
    • Allergies
    • Gutteral Pouch Infection
symptoms of headshaking
Symptoms of Headshaking
  • Behavior/Ill-fitting tack:
    • Physical head movements
    • No disease process (i.e., nasal discharge)
  • Dental Disease:
    • Nasal discharge
    • Foul breath
    • Pain, swelling over facial bones
    • Difficulty eating
    • Abrasions on tongue/cheeks
    • Weight Loss
symptoms of headshaking1
Symptoms of Headshaking
  • Gutteral Pouch Infection:
    • White non-odorous nasal discharge
    • Swollen lymph nodes
    • Painful distension of area behind ears
    • Noisy breathing
  • Ear Disease:
    • Rub ears
    • Sensitive ears
    • Can be VIOLENT (dangerous for rider/handler)
    • Head tilt (due to affected balance)
symptoms of headshaking2
Symptoms of Headshaking
  • Eye Disease:
    • Cancerous growth
    • Difficult to catch
    • Spook easily
    • Previous slides…
  • Nasal Disease:
    • Discharge
  • Allergies:
    • Sneezing
    • Snorting, rubbing nose on legs
photic headshake
Photic Headshake
  • Caused by exposure to light
  • Overstimulation of eye  stimulation of opthalmic branch of trigeminal nerve  impulses to face
    • Probably causes sensation in nasal cavity similar to hay-fever sufferers!
  • Treat by lowering light (fly mask or darkened environment); use of cyproheptidine (0.3 mg/kg BW 2x per day) ± melatonin therapy in summer
  • Present in spring/summer, worsens with exercise
ear problems aural plaques
Ear Problems – Aural Plaques
  • Caused by same virus as warts
  • Respond poorly to treatment and do not spontaneously regress
  • Once thought to be caused by biting flies
  • Can become severely irritated during biting fly season  horses may become defensive about having ears touched!
  • Soothing ointment such as mentholatum can be helpful; panalogmay also help
ear problems middle ear infection
Ear Problems – Middle Ear Infection
  • Problem in gutteral pouch can migrate
    • Bacterial or fungal
  • Doesn’t burst eardrum like other species
  • Causes fusion of stylohyoid bone and temporal bone of the middle ear
  • Can lead to stress fractures and neurological problems
    • Ear rubbing, head tossing, chomping movements, pain around ear, depression, head-tilt, dizzy, facial paralysis
ear problems parasites
Ear Problems – parasites
  • Most common problem of the equine ear
  • Chiggers, ticks, and psoroptes mites
  • Ear mites:
    • Head rubbing, shaking and irritability
    • Not always visible
    • Treat with dewormer and ear drops