Eye Color and Blindness

Q:I have a 5-year-old horse that has one blue eye and one brown eye. I have been that told he is going blind in the blue eye and will proceed to go blind in the brown eye within the next couple years. When I first started riding him, he wouldn't accept a rider because he saw shadows and got scared. But since he has come back from the trainer, he doesn't act like he is seeing shadows. Is it possible there is something else wrong with his eye? Or is it common for a horse with blue eyes to go blind?

Emily Kuehl, via e-mail

A: A blue eye in a horse is not at any more risk for disease than a pigmented eye. There are several diseases, such as cataracts (an opacity or clouding of the lens) or recurrent uveitis (an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation inside the eye) that might involve both eyes and lead to blindness. However, a blue eye is not at increased risk for either of these diseases.

I would suggest a thorough evaluation by a veterinary ophthalmologist for this horse to better understand the causes of the vision deficits that you describe.

About the Author

Brian C. Gilger, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVO

Brian C. Gilger, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVO is an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at North Carolina State University.

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