Digital Photos Assist in Treating the Equine Eye (AAEP 2010)

A veterinarian doesn't need to be a professional photographer to incorporate a digital camera into his or her practice for eye treatment assistance, suggested Ann E. Dwyer, DVM, of Genesee Valley Equine Clinic, in Scottsville, N.Y. Dwyer presented on using digital photographs to assist in treating eye problems in horses at the 2010 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 4-8 in Baltimore, Md.

"Radiographic and ultrasonographic equipment for imaging the axial skeleton and reproductive and internal organs have been widely adopted by equine practitioners throughout the industry; however, imaging equipment and procedures for the equine eye have not been similarly implemented," said Dwyer.

She noted that even the most basic point-and-shoot digital camera is an "invaluable tool for documenting and following a variety of ophthalmic problems such as those affecting the orbit, eyelids, cornea, iris, and lens of the equine eye."

Such conditions include corneal ulcers or trauma, cataracts and lens-position abnormalities, and tumors such as squamous cell carcinomas or sarcoids of the eyelids, among others.

Veterinarians in most equine practices already own digital cameras, but they have yet to use them for ocular photography or have become frustrated with poor-quality, blurred, nondiagnostic images.

However, "excellent photographs can be obtained by even the most novice photographer," emphasized Dwyer.

Some key points for practitioners to consider include:

  • Setting the capture mode to P for "program" to take advantage of camera internal programming capability;
  • Using the autofocus setting in macro mode to focus on close objects, but being sure not to hold the camera too close to the horse's eye;
  • Depressing the shutter button halfway to activate the electrical viewfinder so that the camera adjusts the lenses and aperture for sharp focus and appropriate lighting; and
  • Quickly depressing the shutter button fully to capture the image, making sure that neither the camera operator nor the horse moves at all.

Green brackets will appear on the LCD screen when the electrical viewfinder has focused the camera successfully. Look to see if these green brackets are present. If a red signal is displayed instead, then the camera is likely too close to the globe and the image will not be sharp.

Dwyer reminded practitioners, "always refer to the user manual to learn which setting and range specifications will produce the best images."

She also described the use of the camera display as a stall-side client education device.

"The stored image can be cropped and centered using the digital zoom feature of the camera, producing a highly detailed photo of the eye," she explained. "The owner will gain a good understanding of the problem at hand by looking at the magnified image on the screen."

"Serial images taken at follow-up examinations can be emailed to the owner," Dwyer said, adding that compliance with a complex treatment plan will be enhanced if an owner can see tangible progress on images obtained at follow-up visits. Conversely, if a problem is getting worse, serial images can be emailed to specialists for consultation or referral purposes.

"Ocular digital photography is a simple skill that can be mastered by any equine practitioner," she concluded. "Veterinarians who want to incorporate digital photography into their practice are advised to 'try before you buy' when selecting a digital camera, as there is variability among the quality of images that available cameras will produce that is not related to price. High quality compact cameras that take excellent close-up images are well within the budget of any practice, and ocular photography is a valuable addition to the ocular examination process."

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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