Tips on Examining the Equine Eye

Not only is recognizing an abnormality of the equine eye important, but correctly interpreting the observed changes--which can be subtle--is imperative.

"This is particularly true for riding horses where the safety of the rider is paramount," relayed Derek Knottenbelt, OBE, BVM&S, Dipl. ECEIM, MRCVS, from the Philip Leverhulme Hospital at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom during the 10th International Congress of World Equine Veterinary Association.

"In general, overt pathology is easy to identify because of the ease by which the equine eye can be examined. The largest challenge for general practitioners is determining the significance of subtle variations in normal eyes and recognizing the milder changes that occur in significantly diseased eyes," he continued.

During his presentation, Knottenbelt explained that proper equipment and restraint of the horse is essential prior to embarking on any ophthalmic examination.

"One of the mainstays of examining a painful eye is a combination of sedation (using an opioid analgesic and an alpha-2 receptor agonist), an auriculopalpebral regional nerve block to immobilize the eyelids," explained Knottenbelt.

The goal of the examination is, of course, to achieve a diagnosis; however, as Knottenbelt points out, "this will only be achieved if the practitioner proceeds in an orderly fashion."

In his abstract, "What every practitioner should know about the equine eye," Knottenbelt explains the steps that should be followed during examination of the equine eye and describes some diagnostic procedures to assist practitioners investigating ocular disease.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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