Ophthalmology for Ambulatory Practitioners

"I have a special interest in eyes, but they're only about 5% of my work," began Ann Dwyer, DVM, of Genesee Valley Equine Clinic in Scottsville, N.Y., at the Western Veterinary Conference Feb. 20-24 in Las Vegas, Nev. "Some problems will always have to be referred to specialists, but the average practitioner can diagnose, treat, and monitor 85% of the eye problems that are seen in the field."

She listed the equipment that every ambulatory practitioner should keep in the truck for eye examinations. "Ninety percent of what you need to see can be seen with a good penlight," she commented. "And a digital camera is invaluable for recording problems. I can take a picture, go home, and compare it to books, etc."

In ambulatory ophthalmology practice, she noted that clean patient preparation is essential, using gloves for diagnosis and treatment.

Eye Examinations--"To get competent (at eye exams), just start looking at the eyes of every horse you see," she suggested. "Do a Mag-Lite exam while vaccinating. Be systematic, slow down, think anatomy. Maybe there is a really obvious problem, but look at everything else, too.

"You can also do a blindfold test, which assesses unilateral vision," she said. "Cover one eye with a towel, turn the horse loose in an aisle with a bucket maze, and coax him to walk toward food. Repeat on the other eye and compare. If the horse has a visual problem with one eye, this will be extremely obvious when you cover the good eye."

Owners calling about horses with painful eyes or eye trauma should have a dark exam area available and four bales of shavings or hay ready as a head rest for standing surgery/diagnostics, she said. Any horses with severely swollen lids should be examined the day the owner calls.

Common Problems--"The horse's eyes are at the widest part of his head, so when horses put their heads where they shouldn't be, the eyes are going to get hurt," Dwyer stated. She discussed injuries and several other common eye problems. More information: www.TheHorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?id=5596.

About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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