This month’s article is a continuation of last month’s discussion on equine emergencies. Topics that were not covered last month were eye injuries, acute lameness and an emergency kit.
Eye injuries and a condition called uveitis (or in chronic cases, recurrent uveitis) in a horse can result in partial or full blindness. This is why a veterinarian should take a look at the injured eye as soon as possible.
What does an injured eye look like? When horses have a painful eye, they may squint, tear, have purulent discharge, be reluctant to have their eye examined, and their eyelids may be swollen/inflamed. The injured cornea (the clear part of the eye that you look through) may turn from clear to gray to opaque white, or it may be dull with pinprick size defects. The horse might even act blind in one eye or both.
If any of these symptoms occur, the safest bet is to have your veterinarian thoroughly examine the eye with an ophthalmoscope and stain the eye with fluorescein stain. Then appropriate medication can be given and hopefully the horse’s eyesight can be restored or saved. In some cases it may be necessary to have a boarded veterinary ophthalmologist examine and treat the eye.
At times, surgery may be required to save the eye.
Acute lameness can be a scary situation, and often owners imagine the worst (a broken leg). Luckily there are some reasonable explanations for an extremely acute lame horse. Most fractures occur in a pasture or large paddock situations, usually with other horses present, with riders in a performance sport situation, or even on trail rides (sliding down slopes, getting a leg stuck in a gopher hole).
Kicks, falls at full speed and sudden quick stops are recipes for a possible disaster.
If a horse has been locked up in a stall overnight or a small paddock alone, a fracture is possible, but unlikely. Often a horse may have a stone bruise or hoof abscess brewing that is very painful. Other explanations are a tendon injury (bowed tendon) and cellulitis from a wound.
Whatever the reason may be, have a veterinarian examine the horse in order to rule out the worst and to get the horse on the road to recovery.
A well-prepared horse owner should have a first-aid kit at the barn or boarding location. A general first-aid kit contains a thermometer, an inexpensive stethoscope, bandage material (nonstick pads, brown gauze, cotton, vetwrap, Elasticon, bandage, scissors), wound cleaning solution and scrub (either betadine or chlorhexadine), sterile saline and a wound spray (blue kote, nitrofurazine, or aluspray). If you have a veterinary-patient relationship, a few tablets of phenylbutazone and a tube of Banamine paste are beneficial components of a first-aid kit. But always call the veterinarian for advice on the dose and when to give either product.
There are many more equine emergencies out there that are not covered in the last two articles. When in doubt, call your friendly, local veterinarian. Advice over the phone or a quick visit can relieve your worries and avoid serious complications.
Corine Selders, DMV, owns Cedar Creek Equine Veterinary Practice Inc.