Eye Injury Recap

When Wee discovered Blue’s eye injury on a Friday afternoon after school, coming in the house and announcing, “Mom, Blue’s eye is green!” I gave it my best shot not to get concerned about it.

My son had ridden Blue for a lesson just a few hours prior at our neighbour’s, and his eye had been fine then. Likely an insect, I told her. It will clear up, I told myself. I threw it out there to the universe – clear this up please, let me not have this worry on this Friday afternoon. We loaded up two horses, including Blue, and went to a friend’s arena to ride, and as we wrapped up, I became more concerned. While Blue was bright, alert and responsive, he was still squinting, and his eye was draining a greenish fluid. I couldn’t see a bug. I couldn’t see anything but the green fluid and a cloudy haze which clearly wasn’t receding.

This troubled me enough to call a good friend who is a veterinarian. Fortunately, he was at his home office just a few miles away, and instructed us to bring Blue right over. Following his examination, he placed a call to the veterinarian on call at Moore Equine, Dr. Chris Berezowski, and discussed the injury with him. The upshot was we were soon headed to Moore Equine’s emergency room to meet Dr. Berezowski and Dr. Amber Myers, also on call that evening.

There, the team assessed his vitals – normal – and proceeded to perform a local block and sedation to ease his discomfort and aid in further examination.

What we discovered – in addition to the fact that Blue happens to be a bit of lightweight when it comes to sedation – was a 2 millimetre ulcer in the middle of the eye. It was a serious injury, but worse, it could have progressed to a critical stage had we not brought him in that very evening.

After deliberation, this menagerie was prescribed for treatment.

I have applied eye medication in the past, and I know how resistant horses can be to it. The action of trying to hold a 1,200 pound horse still with one arm, and apply meds into the eye with another is often an exercise in futility. Even the amicable Blue would likely have resisted this prescription. Which is why I love the genius behind the solution to that dilemma – a subpalpebral lavage system.

This system consists of running a catheter – a very long thin tube – through the upper eyelid of the infected eye, stitching it to the forehead, and then braiding it through the mane down to the withers. Medication can then be safely administered back at the wither with minimal fuss. Blue did take to shaking his head when we approached his wither, but we took care to spend some time scratching him and comforting him, so he didn’t always associate the wither position with the uncomfortableness of a medication squirt in his eye.

Blue spend the first few days at the clinic, while we worried – a lot – at home about that worrisome cloudiness in his eye. While still at the clinic, he developed a secondary ulcer, due to the foreign lavage in his eye. Luckily, it was superficial and treated. On Tuesday, Sept. 13, five days after the injury, Dr. Myers performed an ophthalmic exam. The pupil was nicely dilated and the new ulcer almost healed.

Then we brought him home to our own vet stall, where, except for the inconvenience of a four-six hour med schedule, it went very well. On Thursday, Sept. 29th, 20 days after the injury, the lavage system was removed and Blue was placed on an eye cream treatment. While it’s taken us weeks to treat this corneal ulcer, I understand that is not at all unusual with an eye injury.

Now that it’s all (nearly) over, we still don’t know exactly what caused the injury. Blue had been in a pasture which hadn’t been mowed or grazed all summer. I suspect it was something as simple or seemingly harmless as a late summer stalky blade of alfalfa or grass. I realize how incredibly fortunate we were to have the events of September 9th unfold as they did. It isn’t unusual, especially at this time of year, to not have close contact with our horses for a few days at a time. Show season is all but over, and our horses are mostly all turned out. Every two or three days I’ll go and visit them, but it’s not a daily routine. Had Wee not stopped to visit Blue on her walk from the bus to the house, and then subsequently asked to go work the flag at our trainer’s arena, Blue might have been out there for a few days with a critical eye condition. Had my friend not been home to examine Blue, or simply suggested we go home and I take Blue in the following day, Blue’s eye would have advanced to a grave situation. He needed immediate attention, and it was only by the fluke of these steps falling into place, that he received care within eight hours of the injury.

It was a “do I call the vet?” scenario, and while I can never be sure I’ll make the right choices next time, this time I’m so glad I listened to the inner voice which urged me on to the chain of events that led us to Moore Equine that evening. A visit to the emergency room with a horse is a daunting experience – it interferes with timelines and schedules, often involves long hours of driving and then waiting, and if your emergency hunch is correct, grants you an expensive bill or two. I think we’d have made the trip for any of our horses, but Blue is such a special part of our family, I’m especially grateful the stars aligned for the discovery, treatment and recovery of his injury.

What I learned:

– Whenever possible make a daily trip out to the pasture to casually examine each horse. You just never know.

– When in doubt, listen to your inner voice. Call, seek advice, go, do something.

– How fortunate we are to have incredible health care professionals like Dr. Troy Drake, and the veterinary team at Moore Equine within an hour of the log house.

– Nursing a horse on a four-hour med schedule is a little like having a baby again!

– Our Blue boy really is priceless.

Comments

  1. Melissa Sword says

    We went through this in the spring. While my granddaughter was cleaning his stall one of our stallions escaped, ran up to the pen of our second stallion and bit him on the eye. After she put the offending horse away and finished cleaning, she came in and told me what happened. I went out to check the “victim”, his eye was swollen shut and a clear fuid, which I thought was tears, was draining from the corner. His eye looked like any other time I’ve seen a horse get bumped around the eye so I decided to just keep an “eye” on him. When I checked him the next morning, he had a sticky yellowish discharge coming out of his still swollen shut eye and he was circling around and around. The discharge puzzled me because I thought it was awfully soon to be showing signs of an infection but the circling alarmed me. I gave him 35cc of penicillin and then headed into the vet to buy more. When I explained what was going on with him they said the vet should look at him so we made an appointment for the next morning. The prognosis was not good, the bite had punctured his eye and the sticky yellowish fludid was draining out of his eye. The vet said he would be blind at best and possibly have to have his eye removed if an infection set in. I was devastated by the news. The vet said the horse was circling because of pain so he was put on meds to manage the pain and antibiotics to prevent infection for several months. He did not have to have his eye removed and seems to have adjusted to losing his sight in one eye but I am sure the next time I find one of our horses with a swollen eye, it will be loaded up and hauled to the vet immediately!

  2. Thanks for sharing that Melissa, what a story. I’ve learned too, to take a seemingly innocent eye injury very seriously. . .

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