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VETERINARY ADVICE

Over the past five years, vet Stephen Ashdown has written many articles, spoken on equine matters and contributed widely to horse magazines.

Here he reproduces in the form of questions and answers about 100 topics, all of them common problems which afflict horses.

To access Topics click on Vet Advice Menu.

Is he going blind?
Q:While hacking out over the past few weeks my usually bombproof horse has become increasingly spooky.

When my vet visited to give his annual injections and health check, I asked him to look at my horse's eyes. We both got a shock - my horse is losing his eyesight and going blind. At the moment his nearside eyesight is the worst. There is no disease or cataracts in either eye and there appears to be no reason for the problem.

The vet could give no indication of how quickly my horse's eyesight would deteriorate, if atall, nor whether he would become completely blind.

Three and a half years ago my horse a 15.2hh Connemara x Shire gelding was deleiberately poisoned with rat poison and was found collapsed in a field. It was touch and go for a while, but we managed to nurse him back to health.

However, the poisoned damaged his liver and although I believe the liver regenerates itself, apparently it will never be 100% again. Could this be the cause of the problem, and have you any suggestions regarding his care?

A: I am very sorry to hear your horse is losing his eyesight. In such situations, when there are no obvious signs of disease of the eye, it is likey that the problem lies with damage to nerves such as the optic nerve which supplies the eye. Such damage could result from trauma to the head in the past, or be linked to the severe liver damage that you mentioned.

It certainly does sound as if the condition may get a lot worse and result in blindness. The rate at which this may happen is very unpredictable. You might be able to slow down the rate of deterioration with well chose supplements and I would certainly recommend that you give specific liver support.

For information on antioxidant and immune supporting formulae I would recommend you phone Global Herbs to discuss the problem in detail.

Regarding special care for blind horses, when total blindness sets in it is usually kindest not to continue and to consider euthanasia. There may be some individuals who can cope with very limited vision and be reasonably content but most horses will find it to upsetting to lose their sight. There is also the problem that other horses may tend to bully disadvantaged individuals.

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