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Treating An Eye Injury w/o Vet

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    Treating An Eye Injury w/o Vet

    What will you treat without calling the vet? Do you always call out a vet day one for any swelling or concerns around an eye?

    Growing up I was always taught "you don't mess with eyes". On more than one occasion I've felt a little silly rushing a vet out for a puffy eye to be told something that amounted to "looks a little irritated perhaps from that windy day we had yesterday, don't worry about it". Then again, one of those "probably a windy day puffy eye" turned out to be a silver of hay in her eye, which was quite an adventure.

    Some of my friends will flush out a puffy eye and monitor for a day and others will even assume an ulcer and start treatment.

    What is your line for an eye? What do you keep in your kit at home? Under what circumstances do you do an after hours call for an eye?

    Goopy eye, but no swelling, only if everything looks normal. My mare has allergies, so I use goop as an indicator of when to restart her meds. If I can wipe her eye boogers off and get no reaction and the eye looks normal, we're good. Beyond that, I call a vet. If they rub the eye, swelling is present, not open all the way, the vet. That's my line.


      My mare usually has one swollen eye (no goop or red tissue or evident injury) once or twice a year. After the first two times having the vet out and the third calling but they decided not to come, we decided it is likely allergies and I now just treat myself as such. If there isn’t improvement after one day I’ll call the vet.
      If there's goop, clear injury like a cut or rip, etc., I'd call the vet immediately.
      Last edited by mmeqcenter; Jun. 16, 2020, 09:13 PM.


        If Sim puffs up I dribble a hose over it. I check it a few hours later and it has started going down, so I don't worry. If it didn't start going down again I would call a vet.

        I increase putting permoxin on his face. He does this a couple of times a year, so I guess he is knocking it while scratching his head on something.
        It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.


          One of mine has uveitis. I have prednisolone drops, neo-poly-dex, triple antibiotic ointment for eyes, Atropine, and fluorescein ophthalmic strips. I'm comfortable treating just about everything myself, unless he gets a huge ulcer that needs debriding.

          Stain the eye, check for ulcers. No ulcers, use the neo-poly-dex and atropine once a day. If an ulcer is present then avoid steroids and use the triple antibiotic. Check the pupil size - is it open or spasming shut?

          I keep dexamethasone and banamine on hand as well.

          Before this horse, I had a mare with an ulcer that became an abscess in the eye. It resolved in over a month with medication 3-4x daily.

          I've had several instances of minor corneal abrasions. I see nothing wrong with reaching for the triple antibiotic ointment, as that is safe, effective for abrasions, and won't cause further problems...steroids are risky because if there's an ulcer, it will make things much worse. Don't use steroidal medications unless you are absolutely certain you know there isn't a corneal abrasion.


            If the eye itself is clear, bright, not weeping anything weird, and not excessively teary, so just the area around the eye is swollen, I will flush the eye with an over the counter rinse, give banamine orally, and keep a fly mask on. 90% of the time it resolves in less than 24 hours. Any actual injury to the eye, or an eye that is swollen shut or so painful the horse won’t let me treat it, I call the vet. I know a horse that lost her eye after a long and painful battle (due to barn owner negligence when the owner was on vacation) so tend to lean towards the more cautious side just to be safe. I will definitely call after hours for any injury to the eye itself! Or I will call the vet for persistent swelling or excessive redness, but not after hours. My gelding tends to get a mildly irritated eye on occasion so I keep saline solution to rinse and an antibiotic eye ointment for those days. I’ve never had his eye be irritated for longer than 12 hours with that protocol luckily!


              I usually send a pic to my vet, describe what happened, describe my treatment, and ask if she'd like to come out.

              I had a horse get his flymask in his eye and we treated him with the antibiotic eye drops you get from TSC. I sent a couple pics but she never considered it necessary to come out.


                I'm old fashioned, but I don't mess with eyes. An old trainer of mine decided to "wait a day" with my very fancy 2-year-old when I was out of town. Ended up being a staph infection and the horse lost her eye.


                  Originally posted by Gainer View Post
                  I'm old fashioned, but I don't mess with eyes. An old trainer of mine decided to "wait a day" with my very fancy 2-year-old when I was out of town. Ended up being a staph infection and the horse lost her eye.

                  I can do 98% of my horse's care myself but I NEVER dink around with eyes. Swollen, runny, goopy, shut tight = Vet call stat.

                  Happened Saturday... I trimmed my OTTB's hooves, walked around to undo the cross ties and there's that left eye as described above. Hello, Dr Mike? Didn't take up the green stain but did the other. Scratched cornea. So he's on some Banamine paste twice a day for three days, Antibiotic Salve and Atropine to keep the iris open. Fly mask in place.

                  I just don't mess with eyes. They can go south very quickly.
                  <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


                    Usually having been around the block for way too long = not calling the vet for things. Eyes are the exception. Eye not happy always equals a vet call. Too much can go wrong too quickly with an eye problem.
                    I would rather pay the vet to be told it is nothing than not have paid the vet and it to have been something.


                      If it's my horse: banamine, look for ulcer/abrasions, neopolybac. Based on the symptoms I might assume allergies, etc. If it seems very painful, hot, weeping a lot, horse cannot open it, I will call vet/send photos. If banamine doesn't help, I will call vet.

                      If it's someone else's horse: look for ulcers/abrasions, send photos, ask what they'd like to do.


                        Original Poster

                        I'm enjoying reading the variety of responses and how people think through their order of operation or line for calling the vet.

                        4horses that's an impressive skill set! Your process sounds like nearly every emergency eye appointment I've ever had. Given that you navigate a chronic issue, is your vet more prone to helping you keep these items on hand?

                        Gainer I'm really sorry about your filly. That must have been a really upsetting experience.


                          I always call the vet for eyes. I had a mare that needed epensive surgery (general anesthesia) on her eye because a tiny ulcer went south in 24 hours. The eye was treated immediately by the vet, but it was treated initially as bacterial when the eye actually had a fungal infection. Mare ended up in hospital for a week, with a conjuctival graft surgery done on the eye and a line place in the eye lid for her eye meds to be delivered through. The catheter remained in place for 6 weeks at home so I could administer her eye meds. It was no fun. So like Gainer, I don't mess with eyes either.


                            Like some other above--if it's the tissue AROUND the eye, I'll give banamine and maybe cold compress and see how it looks in 12-24 hours. Those "did something dumb and banged my face" things.

                            If it looks to actually involve the EYEBALL, I'm calling the vet. Or texting pictures, actually.

                            Thankfully, I don't think I've ever had an actual eyeball injury. (Knock on wood!!)



                              I don't mess with eyes much. These days, I will call the vet and text over a picture for him to advise me on - which might be to flush myself or he's headed my way right now, depending how it looks. I do keep an unopened bottle of saline (replaced each time I open and use) and eye ointment, plus the usual banamine and so on, in my barn for such incidents.


                                I've got one with chronic eye problems too. I think I have treated about 15 ulcers with him. Some of them have taken months to heal. The first two or three times it happened, vet was called and many large bills came from it. At this point, I just call in the meds I need and treat myself. If it goes on too long, I get the vet involved. I used to be fully in the "don't mess with eyes" camp but having done this for so many years, I've learned what I can handle and what needs a vet's attention.


                                  My vet told me to look for the eyelashes pointing down if the eye is swollen - that is an indication of severe eye pain and I call the vet.

                                  Otherwise, my horse has allergies and narrowed tear ducts but has had corneal ulcers before. So if it's minor swelling and tearing, I'll do a fluroscein stain and see if any stain is picked up (and see if it comes out the nostril eventually). I have neo-poly-dex on hand for his regular eye allergy issues, but if I'm not certain, I'll use just antibiotic eye ointment and call the vet. I don't give any banamine in either case unless the vet tells me to.


                                    We have one with recurrent uveitis so I have stuff on hand. If it is the eye itself or I suspect a puncture or injury then I will call the vet asap.

                                    If it is just swollen around the eye or irritation etc, but the eye itself looks fine, it is a wait a bit and see what develops kind of thing.


                                      I've always told my clients I would *never* give them a hard time if they called me to come out for an eye problem.
                                      Did have one client with an ERU horse who lived slightly east of the edge of the world. She was a vet tech, so I trusted her to do a stain and start steroids if necessary, since it was not a trivial trip out there. (Would not have advised it if it were a boarder.)
                                      "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

                                      ...just settin' on the Group W bench.


                                        If the eye looks just slightly off, I'll give it a flush and check it again in 30-60 minutes. If it is resolving or resolved, I'll flush it one more time for good measure and give it another check in another hour and then a while later. If it doesn't resolve, I call the vet. If the eye seems very off or the horse is in severe pain I call the vet.