Last week I was up to my eyeballs in, well, eyeballs. The American Association of Equine Practitioners' Focus on Ophthalmology seminar took place in Raleigh, N.C., so I spent the week learning about the equine eye and related disorders. Although much of the information presented had a pretty (read: extremely) technical nature, I quite enjoyed furthering my knowledge.
The seminar included information about eye problems in horses of all ages, from congenital problems found in foals to common anomalies typically identified in senior horses. For example, senile cataracts are a common problem in old horses. In fact, presenter Andy Matthews, BVM&S, PhD, Dipl. ECEIM, ACVO (Hon), FRCVS, explained that it's rare to find a horse over the age of about 18 without some degree of cataract development. Although there's not currently anything we can do about senile cataracts, he said they don't typically cause any major problems for the horses aside from potential visual deficits as they develop.
Similarly, Matthews said many old horses have some form of senile retinopathy. For example, 99% of horses over the age of 18 will have generalized depigmentation and/or linear hyperpigmentation in the back of their eyes, he said. In many cases, the most severe problem this condition causes is visual deficits in low-lighting, he added.
Even though equine recurrent uveitis (ERU) is found in horses of most ages, I listened intently to the information presented in the lecture focusing on this frustrating disorder, because it had personal significance: my 26-year-old Appaloosa gelding suffers from the disease.
Brian Gilger, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVO, ABT, disseminated very valuable information about ERU and noted that he and others are continually working to find an effective treatment to stop ERU in its tracks. They've had good luck with a cyclosporine A implant, which is surgically placed in an affected horse's eye. The procedure requires both a hospital visit and general anesthesia, which is prohibitive for some horse owners and might preclude its use in old horses that have the potential for complications relating to the anesthesia; my old guy falls into the latter category.
And finally, even though it wasn't directed at senior horses, I really enjoyed the presentations Dennis Brooks, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVO, gave because not only were they chock full of great information, they all included some fascinating (albeit a bit gory) photos and videos Anyone at The Horse's office will tell you I love gory, gnarly, and/or bizarre photos related to equine medicine, though, so theses photos were right up my alley! That said, some of the images were beautiful and reminded me of photos taken in outer space with swirls of color and glowing bodies. However, most of these conditions aren't good for the horses they affect, so I hope I never see them in my own horses' eyes!
Sound interesting? It was definitely an educational week for me. Full coverage of the event will be available on TheHorse.com in the coming weeks. Until then, does your senior horse have any eye problems? How are you and your veterinarian managing them? Share your experiences below!