Equine Uveitis


Overview: Uveitis is inflammation of the uvea in the horse’s eye.  The uvea consists of the iris (colored portion of the eye), the ciliary body (produces fluid to maintain the shape of the eye) and the choroid (responsible for supplying blood and nutrients to the back portion of the eye).  The severity of uveitis can be mild to severe and many are reoccurring as well, known as Equine Recurrent Uveitis.  Equine Recurrent Uveitis is the most common cause of blindness in horses.



Causes: There are many causes of ERU in horses.  ERU is immune-mediated, which means that subsequent episodes are due to the horse’s immune system being overactive.  This is why after the inciting cause has resolved, horses will often have relapses in the disease.  Many times, the inciting cause is unknown.  Some examples are:


1. Trauma


2. Bacterial- Leptospirosis is one of the many agents present in ERU horses


3. Viral


4. Parasites


5. Neoplasia


6. Systemic Illnesses


7. Tooth Root Abscesses



Diagnosis:  A diagnosis of ERU is based on clinical signs and an ophthalmic examination.  Clinical signs include a ‘cloudy’ eye, a red and painful eye, excessive tearing, squinting or holding the eye closed, a small pupil and sensitivity to light.



Treatment: The veterinarian will determine the proper treatment for your horse.  Most horses will receive a topical antibiotic with a corticosteroid for a minimum of 2 weeks.  Your horse may also be placed on atropine, which will help dilate their pupil to reduce pain.  Depending on the severity, they may also be placed on a systemic corticosteroid or an NSAID, such as bute or banamine.  For advanced cases, there are further options, many of which involve referral to a Veterinary Ophthalmologist.



Prognosis:  Long- term prognosis is guarded since this is often a recurrent disease.  However, many horses are managed successfully for many years.  Common manifestations include cataracts, phthisis bulbi (shrinking of globe of eye) and blindness.

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