When your horse has a swollen eye

Call the veterinarian immediately if your horse has a puffy, closed eye, then protect him from further injury while trying to keep him as comfortable as possible.

If you discover that your horse has a swollen, red or cloudy eye, call the veterinarian immediately.

If you discover that your horse has excessive tears, redness, squinting, corneal cloudiness or swollen eyelids, take the situation seriously. Call your veterinarian immediately and do your best to keep your horse calm and comfortable. The possible prognosis, which ranges from full recovery to permanent loss of vision, depends on the cause of the problem, the severity of the injury, the level of contamination and how quickly treatment begins.

Keep your horse from making this situation worse

Carefully halter the horse and hold him so he cannot rub his eye on anything, including his own knees. Rubbing can worsen the eye’s condition, particularly if a foreign object is embedded in it.

Inspect the eye and surrounding area.

If the horse allows you, gently pry the eyelid open to look for a foreign object. If you see one, do not remove it—simply inform the veterinarian when she arrives. Also, press gently on the bones around the eye, head and poll, looking for tenderness. Tell your veterinarian what you find.

If nothing is embedded in the eye:

Rinse with saline solution. Flushing dust, grit and debris from an injured eye can provide immediate pain relief. But use only sterile saline that has been properly stored.

Apply a cold pack.

While you are waiting for the veterinarian, place a bag of ice, a commercial ice pack or even a bag of frozen peas directly over the closed eyelids. This will often dramatically reduce swelling and make the horse more comfortable, particularly if the problem is conjunctivitis—a swelling of the membranes around the globe—or blunt trauma like a person’s “black eye,” which affects only the skin around the eye.

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