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Horses Overcome Eye Removal WellBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · September 26, 2017

According to a recent survey*, horses that require removal of one eye (unilateral enucleation) continue to successfully compete in athletic events. This news helps assuage fears of concerned owners when faced with making the difficult decision to enucleate when the medical management of eye diseases fails.

“Various conditions can lead to enucleation, including trauma, glaucoma, neoplasia, or inflammation of various regions of the eye, resulting in uveitis, endophthalmitis, and keratitis,” explained Laura Petroski, D.V.M., a veterinarian at Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

Equine recurrent uveitis (ERU, moon blindness) caused by the bacterium Leptospirosis can also result in enucleation, especially for Appaloosas.

To collect more information on the impact of enucleation, 119 owners of horses that underwent the procedure were surveyed. While most horses were used for pleasure-riding, others, approximately one-quarter of included horses, were competitive in show-jumping and dressage. Overall, 77% of enucleated horses performed at an equivalent or higher level than prior to enucleation.

Major reasons for owner concern prior to enucleation included post-surgical performance; safety while riding; cost of surgery; quality of life and discomfort following surgery; and cosmetic outcome.

The study found, however, such fears were largely unfounded. Complications following surgery occurred very rarely, and 90% of owners were pleased with the outcome. This included owners who reported being concerned or even very concerned prior to surgery.

The researchers therefore concluded, “Horses can return successfully to a variety of disciplines following enucleation. Owners are satisfied with the outcome and pleased that enucleation was performed.”

“In addition to offering a supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids such as KER’s EO•3, owners of athletic horses are reminded to feed appropriately during detraining,” advised Petroski. “Further, consider various training strategies when returning to work post-surgically for fitness, building muscle, and replacing valuable electrolytes after working.”

KER offers several electrolyte supplements, including Restore SR and Restore Paste. Australian shoppers should look for Restore as well as other KER-formulated electrolytes designed for endurance horses.

*Wright, K., J.L. Ireland, and D.I. Rendle. A multicentre study of long-term follow-up and owner satisfaction following enucleation in horses. Equine Veterinary Journal. In press.