Equine Conjunctivitis

This is Petey. He\’s my new six-year-old gelding, and we\’re going cutting this year! But, obviously, that\’s not what this post is about.

Petey had a little problem with runny eyes earlier this spring. That is, the normally clear discharge turned mucoid, and he was clearly sensitive in the area.


When cleansing them daily at the barn and applying a little eye ointment didn\’t appear to clear them up, I decided to take him to the equine health experts at Moore & Co.

A discharge from both eyes, swollen eyelids, and red eyes, as Petey was presenting, suggests goopy eyes, or as Dr. Shawn Mattson enlightened me – equine conjunctivitis – a common condition for horses.


Some cases may begin as an allergy – with horses being affected by certain pollens or dusts, or simply, the eyes have been party one too many times to the wind and dust storms which are regular features of our environment here on the prairie. Some cases have an element of infection involved which turns the clear fluids of the normal eye into thicker, more mucoid discharges or even into pus.

How Petey contracted equine conjunctivitis I can\’t say for sure. But, that he had contracted it, was clear and easily diagnosed by Dr. Mattson and his able technicians at Moore & Co.

In this case, the solution would be a flushing of the tear ducts. This would be accomplished via the nasolacrimal duct, which begins in the nostrils and runs up to the tear ducts.


As this isn\’t the most comfortable of procedures, Dr. Mattson administered some sedative to Petey to help him relax. Then, we proceeded.


How our able techs found that teensy pin-hole entrance to the duct, I have no idea, but they did and soon after, inserted a long, thin tube partially into it . . .


. . . and simply squirted up a solution of saline.


As you can see from this photo, the saline solution inserted in point A, reached point B in a second and flowed out copiously, just as it should, thereby unblocking the ducts.

Mission accomplished and we were on our way.

Dr. Mattson also sent me home with an eye ointment to apply once a day to Petey\’s eyes.


When applying eye ointment on your own be sure to use clean water only to wipe away the muck from the side of the face and avoid cotton wool or soft tissues, which may shed fibres and exacerbate the irritation. Run a teensy ribbon of ointment along the border of the eyelid and as the horse blinks the ointment will get dispensed where it should. Dr. Mattson reminded me to use extremely clean hands, or wear medical gloves, in order to avoid imparting any further bacteria in the area.

Remember, to protect your horse\’s eyesight, any discharging or swollen eye issues should be checked by an equine veterinarian if it hasn\’t cleared up in 24 hours.

Further Reference: for a step-by-step of applying eye ointment correctly to a horse\’s eye, have a look at our Equine Health section in Western Horse Review\’s August issue.


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