Warmer weather unfortunately can mean more pesky flies, and they can often irritate horses’ eyes. You may notice that your horse has swollen eyes or discharge (from one or both eyes). Likewise, the conjunctiva (the membranes or pink tissues surrounding the eye) may be red. Also, the white of the horse’s eye (sclera) may have more small blood vessels showing.
What can I do to help my horse’s eyes?
Using fly masks can prevent flies from irritating the eyes by stopping them from landing. There are many types available (some with ear covers to prevent flies biting the inside of the ears too.) Fly repellant may also be a good idea but take care not to get in the eyes. Further irritation could occur! Remember that if there are showers, it may not remain on the skin long enough to be effective. In some cases we may use antibiotics or steroids (or a combination of the two) to combat symptoms. Steroids can often be used to reduce inflammation and antibiotics deal with any bacterial infection.
It is also important to have the right treatment; human over-the-counter eye drops may not be suitable for treating infections. Also, if you are competing, eye drops containing steroids may not be appropriate!
What else should I look out for?
If your horse is scratching itself, then it could have another condition such as sweet itch. This may need investigating so that an appropriate management plan can be put in place. Flies may also be responsible for transmitting BPV which can cause sarcoids! Corneal ulcers can also develop if the horse rubs or scratches the eyes on either its legs or another surface. Again, this is where prompt veterinary attention is required to assess and treat the problem, thereby reducing the risk of any further issues.