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Eye injury management

From: Kathie

Dear Jessica,

My horse hurt his eye, we don't know exactly how he did it. He was at the vet clinic all afternoon. Now he is home and I am supposed to put two different kinds of medicine in his eye four times a day for the next two weeks. I can do that, but I am supposed to keep his eye covered so no light gets in (something about one of the medicines is bad for his eye if light gets in). My dad borrowed a hood with a "cup" from a friend of his with Standardbred Race Horses. But it rubbed all of Mojo's hair off along the edge of the hood, and his eye just sweats and sweats under the cup, so I don't think that's so good for him. What else can we do to keep his eye covered and no light coming through? I thought of using a fly mask but you said that horses can see through those, so light must come through them, is that right? Is there some kind of horsey eye patch we can buy? I am writing to you because you always know things that nobody else knows. Thank you.

Kathie


Hi Kathie!

I'm so sorry to hear about your horse's eye injury. Those racing hoods DO tend to rub, especially in hot weather when horses get sweaty. At the racetrack, the horses don't wear those for very long at a time. When you have to leave one on a horse all day or overnight, it's likely to rub off the hair and then rub off the skin, so it's a good thing you noticed what it was doing to your horse.

I've tried sewing fleece to the hood edges, which works reasonably well if you keep it clean, and I've heard that some people glue or sew neoprene to the edges. There's nothing much you can do about the problem with sweating, though. If your weather is hot and humid, your horse will sweat under the cup, because there is no air flow under there at all. You're right, it's not very good for the horse. It's uncomfortable and makes horses want to rub their eyes - which is the LAST thing you want a horse to do when it has an eye injury. The sweat also washes the meds right out of the horse's eye, which means they can't do their job.

I've been through this myself when a horse had an eye injury, and what worked best for me, and might (with your vet's approval) work for you, was to take a fly mask - actually three different flymasks - and customize it for the horse. What I did was to take some moisture-wicking material, fold it into a four-layer pad about 6"x6", and SEW that into the inside of the flymask, so that it would cover the area over and around the horse's hurt eye. This kept all the light out, but allowed some air through, and it kept the sweat moving through the cloth to the outside of the material, instead of letting it pool and run into the horse's eye. Four times a day, I would bring the horse indoors, put it in a dark stall, and put new meds in its eye. Then I would put the flymask back on - or change it for a clean one if this one had gotten dirty - and put the horse back into the pasture. That's why I customized THREE fly masks, so there would always be a clean one available. Whenever a mask wasn't in use, I would clean it and then sew in a fresh cloth pad. This worked very nicely for me - you might want to see whether it will work for you. Be sure to ask your vet what he thinks BEFORE you try it! You can also ask him whether he has any suggestions about the material or the amount of padding you use. It's important to protect the eye, and it's also very important to avoid light. If one of the medications you're putting in Mojo's eye is atropine, it will dilate his pupil and keep it from constricting when light hits it. If that happens, too much light will get into his eye, and could damage it - which is why you need to keep the light OUT of his eye until you've used up all of that medication AND your vet says it's okay to let him have light in that eye.

You sound like a good "horse nurse" and I'm sure you're taking very good care of Mojo.

Jessica

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