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.

Visions of Health
Q Ten months ago I fetched my 26-year old mare in from the field and was horrified to see that her right eye had turned bright blue.

The vet diagnosed keratitis and gave me some cream. The condition did not improve and nine visits from the vet plus lots of creams, eye-drops and drugs later, she was referred to a specialist. He suspected herpes and gave me more ointments and drops which still did not make any difference. On her second visit to the specialist, uveitis was diagnosed and I was advised she was not in any pain and the eye was not causing any problems. The only option was an operation but her age made this quite risky. The specialist gave me some cream to use but it caused irritation so I stopped using it. What could the problem be?

A From the history you have provided, it certainly sounds as if the eye in question has been exposed to an infection with a virus and it is unfortunate that none of the treatments have helped.

Virus infections are very difficult to treat and it is unusual that it happened in just one eye. Normally, if such a problem occurs in just one eye, a vet would suspect either a foreign body, some form of trauma or a specific infection.

Now that the condition has been present for a long time, there is bound to be a lot of permanent damage to the eye and I think the suggested diagnosis of uveitis is quite likely. This is a more general infection and/or soreness inside the eye rather than just on the outside (keratitis).

I doubt whether any veterinary medication would help a great deal from now on and you need to keep your horse as healthy as possible to prevent flare-ups in the future. An important part of keeping her healthy and also tackling viral problems is to strengthen the immune system as much as possible.

It may be that a weakness in the immune system caused the problem in the first place. You can strengthen the immune system by keeping her well fed, contented and free from stress. A good-quality mineral supplement will also help, as will the herb echinacea.

Keep some eye-wash and antibiotic cream from your vet at hand in case the eye gets damaged - it is vulnerable now she cannot see so well with it. Taking good care of the eye and keeping her immune system healthy will all help to prevent any further problems.


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