When you find your horse standing in the paddock looking unhappy and there is some swelling, drooping eye lid with tears, or drainage from the corner of an eye, don't brush it off as "one of those things" that come and go on their own. Rather, consider yourself lucky that you have caught the condition early! What looks ever so innocent and succinct to the novice at first could become a serious eye condition over night. The first thing you want to do is to inspect the eye around the outside and the inner eye lids and membranes. A healthy eye looks clear and lustrous, the eye lid membranes are smooth and pink without drainage or feeling of warmth. Gently lift the upper eye lid and then pull down the lower; if you have a small flash light, use it. For comparison, check the other unaffected side. Check the bad eye for:
- foreign body (piece of hay, shaving, dust, grass seed, eyelid hair)
- injury (blood, scratch, ulcer)
- redness (the inner membranes around the eye, under eye lid)
- pain (if the horse flinches when you touch it)
- heat (gently place your cupped hand over the affected eye, compare with the other eye)
- discharge (tears, yellow puss, whitish thick, or clear thin drainage)
Then call your veterinarian. Your vet might not have to come out but can give you instructions on how to treat this condition.
In the above photos you see a horse with swelling around left eye, drooping eye lid and some mucous drainage from the corner. The eye is ever so slightly swollen; some may call it puffy. While there isn't a significant amount of drainage it feels warm to the touch and there is some clear tearing, indicating that there is at minimum some kind of irritation present. After the condition was treated with triple-antibiotic eye ointment twice a day for 5 days the condition had not improved much. We noticed a cloudy, white, milky film developing over the retina and therefore, an antifungal ointment was added to the regimen because apparently an opportunistic fungal infection had developed in the compromised eye.