Ask the Vet: Corneal Ulcers

Courtesy of AAEP

Question: What antibiotic should be used as a first choice to control an eye ulcer?

Answer: This is a great question. Unfortunately, the answer is not a very easy or straightforward one, nor is there one correct answer. For most uncomplicated ulcers, a combined medication such as bacitracin, neomycin, polymixin (triple antibiotic) ophthalmic ointment or solution is a good first line choice for treatment. However, depending on where you may be geographically and the factors surrounding the ulcer, such as how it happened, how long has it been present, how big it is, etc. the choice of therapeutic agent may vary significantly. Corneal ulcers can sometimes progress in the face of antibiotic therapy, and the progression can be rapid, so it is very important that any suspected corneal ulcer be seen by your veterinarian to determine the best treatment plan. .

Question: What can one do if an eye worm (Setaria equi) infection occurs in the horse’s eye?

Answer: Sertaria equine is a parasitic worm commonly found in the abdomen of horses all over the world, but is generally non-pathogenic. This parasite can rarely, however, inhabit aberrant sites, such as the eye, in which case it can cause clinical symptoms of infection, including pain, cloudiness and generalized irritation and inflammation of the ocular tissues. Ocular Sertaria equine is generally treated surgically to removed the parasite from the eye. Medical treatment is an option, but in many cases is not pursued for several reasons, the first of which is that after administration of the anthelmintic (dewormer), it generally takes at least 2 weeks for the parasite(s) to die. Additionally, the absorption time of the dead parasite by the host tissues is slow (can be months) and often associated with significant inflammation, and possibly further damage, within the eye. If diagnosed or suspected, consultation with a veterinary ophthalmologist is definitely in order!

Question: We recently aquired a mare that has ulcers that are old. Is there an oinment that will help heal these? She will always have scarring but the white haze on the cornea changes with the amounts of dust we get in our environment. Washing the eye helps some but this mare is also partly wild.

Answer: Often times, once a white scar deveops on a horse’s cornea it will always persist, although it may diminish in size over time. Depending on the age of the scar, there are sometimes ointments that can be applied to decrease the amount of scarring, but these should always be used under the direction of your veterinarian. If the haze seems to change significantly with the amount of dust, or if she squints her eye at all, she may have ongoing inflammation in her eye and should be seen by your veterinarian. The partially wild part sure adds to the excitement!