Corneal Dystrophy

Q. I own a 12-year-old foundation-bred Appaloosa gelding. Five years ago he was diagnosed with corneal dystrophy, which seems to be extremely stable (it hasn't flared up in more than four years). The surface of the cornea has a slightly rough texture, and the margin with the sclera is not a smooth line.

I've heard that this condition is more common in Appaloosas. But I've been unable to locate any information as to the exact nature of the problem, or a long-term prognosis for my horse. Any information?


A. Corneal dystrophies are by definition bilateral (in both eyes), involve only one of the three corneal layers (epithelium, stroma, or endothelium), and are not associated with previous trauma or any type of inflammatory disease. They are not as common in horses as in dogs, and I am not aware of the Appaloosa or any other breed of horse being particularly susceptible. True dystrophies are progressive to some degree (they can get worse). They must be differentiated from corneal degeneration, which is a unilateral (in one eye) problem that is caused by previous disease.

About the Author

Dennis E. Brooks, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVO

Dennis E. Brooks, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVO, is a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Florida. He has lectured extensively, nationally and internationally, in comparative ophthalmology and glaucoma, and has more than 140 refereed publications. He is a recognized authority on canine glaucoma, and infectious keratitis, corneal transplantation, and glaucoma of horses.

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