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Insidious Equine Uveitis? Blindness??

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  • Insidious Equine Uveitis? Blindness??

    I have a 17 year old Appaloosa gelding that I think is losing his vision--he has been mostly a pasture pet for the past few years. Over time, I've noticed that he seems to be getting clumsier with his head (banging it into me or a door ... and then acting surprised that it happened). He's always been a bit of a klutz that way, so I didn't get concerned.

    He actually belongs to an ex-boyfriend and he rarely does more than pet him and give him a treat or two. I handle his day to day care, but I rarely do more than feed him and give him hugs. He's a really sweet horse. Today, though, I did some basic ground work with him for the first time this year because he's been acting more insecure and herdbound than usual. I thought this would be good for him. I noticed that when going to the right he didn't seem to notice the Clinton Anderson handy stick I was using until it actually touched him ... and then he startled. I started to wonder about his vision. Then I did the layman's test of moving your hand towards the eye quickly repeatedly--no response at all on the right. The left had a response, but even that was kind of odd--like it set off too many blinks.

    He doesn't have anything noticable about the eye except it looks very dark to me ... but it could be the lighting??? Don't know. He hasn't had any symptoms or problems, but I've read that with the insidious type that Apps tend to get there isn't any. He freaked out (unusual for him) about a year ago and my ex got bucked off, which we attributed to his not doing anything except lounging around the pasture for months at a time ... but this kind of reaction was a first for him. It was like he got very tense and then just said "I can't take it any more!"and started bucking. He seemed surprised when my ex fell off and he didn't know what to do--I don't think he's had riders fall off him much.

    I'm going to call the vet tomorrow to discuss. He may need to be taken to Cornell Vet school for an exam ... have to see what she recommends.

    Any experience with this? Thoughts? Ideas?

    Horse'in around in Upstate NY

  • #2
    "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

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


    • Original Poster

      Vet was out yesterday and confirmed that he is totally blind in the right eye and has significant loss in the left eye. Medication prescribed to try to preserve the left eye vision.

      He has the insidious type of uveitis. Good thing is that he doesn't have the pain associated with the acute uveitis attacks ...

      He is doing well with his adjustment to blindness and still has enough vision to manage quite well.

      Any one have comments, insights, or advice???

      Horse'in around in Upstate NY


      • #4
        A lot of times, uveitis can cause cataracts to form, so keep an eye on his eyes. (sorry for the funny sentence, there) This can also cause low pressure in the eyeball itself, which causes the orb to gradually shrink. Or, less commonly, they can also develop glaucoma (increased pressure), so both are something you need to have checked regularly. The first horse I owned had bi-lateral uveitis, like yours. His right eye went first, developed a cataract, and was gradually shrinking over time. Eventually the retina detached (extremely painful for the horse) and the eye needed to be removed.

        Depending on what meds the vet has prescribed, there are warnings associated. My guy was on flurbiprofen (a non-steroidal anit-inflammatory) and prednisolone acetate (a steroidal anti-inflammatory). Remember that any type of steroidal medication suppresses the immune system, so possibly a supplement to help boost/support his immune system would be helpful. Uveitis is an extremely frustrating disease to treat. Just be glad he doesn't suffer the pain from the acute flares; they are horrendous on the horse. Do a search under this forum for more advice; I know uveitis has been discussed on here quite often. Good luck with your guy!


        • #5
          There is an Appy boarded at the barn that is almost completely blind. He has adjusted well and you'd never know he is blind at times. He has been this way for several years now; he needs no meds and no special care. I think with horses the other senses take over and helps the horse adjust to the blindness. My farrier told me a story of a horse that was blind and the owner didn't even know it.
          Good luck!


          • #6
            Get your guy a good fly mask that blocks UV light. I have a cashel, a kensington, and a guardian (all three block light) that I rotate out when they get dirty or wet. My pony wears a mask 24/7 even at night. I have not had a uveitis flare up in over a year.

            She is also on MSM for other reasons but I have heard that some think it helps their horses.


            • Original Poster

              Thanks everyone. I really appreciate your taking the time to post. :-)

              I have a bunch of fly masks, so I'm covered there. I didn't think about leaving it on at night--what's the reason for that?

              So far there is no cloudiness in the eyes that would indicate a cataract. His right eye just doesn't "work" and the left one is sluggish to respond to just simple stuff like pupil dilation/constriction.

              So far he's been very good for his medications. He lets me put the eye ointments in with very little fuss and is eating the oral med in grain. Whew!

              I've been doing internet research and MSM comes up over and over. But no one says how much. How much MSM do you think I should give him? He weighs about 1100 pounds. I've also heard long term aspirin is good.

              I'm going to touch base with the vet in another week and see what's next. I'm not clear how long the meds should be given, but I remember something about "a week". I was too overwhelmed to remember everything or ask many questions yesterday. But, I've been reading a lot about MSM and aspirin so I'll be sure to ask her about that. I'm also going to start him back on flax seed. Hoping to keep the inflammation in check. I think that long term medication/supplementation will be important with his type of uveitis in particular because I won't know if he's having problems or not because he doesn't have the typical flares.
              Horse'in around in Upstate NY


              • #8
                Well i pasture board my mare and at our current barn, the manager will not go out and take it off for the evening and put it back on so its mostly convenience but if its windy, it does keep hay and other things from getting in her eye at night. At first, I worried about leaving it on overnight and called the guardian company to talk about it, since the guardian mask blocks the most light. They said not to worry about it.

                I just use the regular dose of MSM. I think you can double it though.