Rocky Valley Veterinary Service

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Do you know what a horse “sees”?

360 degrees, that’s what! With its head pointed straight ahead, a horse can nearly see its tail. The retina detects movement with both eyes and then observes the object once it reaches 3-4 feet away by turning or lowering its head and looking with one eye.

Eye problems in foals

With such magnificent vision, you’ll want to take good care of your horse’s eyes and adopt regular ophthalmology care. In newborn foals, they may exhibit droopy eyelids, insufficient tear secretion, round pupils (instead of cones), decreased corneal sensitivity, and lack of menace reflex for about two weeks. Entropion is evidenced by an inward rolling of the eyelid margin, resulting in the eyelid hairs coming in contact with the cornea. When this happens, it can be an effect of dehydration or emaciation in “downer foals”. Sutures can be used at the lid margin to prevent corneal ulceration.

If the foal has congenital eye defects, cataracts are common, and in this case, surgery is often recommended. If the problems are not addressed, it could cause blindness.

Corneal sensitivity

In adult horses, the cornea is very sensitive, while the foal may be less sensitive. This decreased sensitivity may partially explain the lack of clinical signs often seen in sick neonates with corneal ulcers. 

Other ophthalmology issues

Conjunctival flaps
Fungal ulcers
Corneal stromal abscesses
Diseases of the uveal tract
Night blindness

Remember that medical therapy needs to be carefully considered and treatments for these conditions may include antibiotics, topical serums, NSAIDs, cataract surgery, and ERU therapy. A complete ophthalmic examination should be performed regularly to detect eye problems or injuries.