Eye Ulcer In The Horse Will Not Heal: What To Do

Last Updated on June 18, 2022

Eye ulcers can be painful and uncomfortable for your horse and lead to serious problems. Knowing what to do when an eye ulcer in the horse will not heal is important, as your horse could potentially need surgery. Though eye ulcers can be common, they should always get checked out by a veterinarian.

Though many eye ulcers can go away within a few days, some can become more serious and require more care. Fortunately, with the right treatment, most ulcers can be successfully treated. Your veterinarian can help come up with a treatment plan that is right for your horse.

What Is An Eye Ulcer?

An eye ulcer, also known as a corneal ulcer, is an abrasion on the surface of the eye. They are the most common ophthalmic conditions veterinarians come across and they can range from small scratches that heal quickly to bacterial or fungal infections that require more complex treatments.

No matter the severity of the ulcer, they should be treated appropriately to prevent/treat infection, control pain, and speed healing. Since the cornea is very fragile, it is important to take care when treating an ulcer to prevent any further damage.

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Types Of Eye Ulcers

Corneal ulcers can be categorized into six different types. By learning the different types you can get a better understanding of which one your horse may have and the care needed to treat it.

Nonhealing (Indolent) Ulcers

Nonhealing (indolent) ulcers occur from an abnormal adhesion of corneal epithelial cells to the anterior stroma. The anterior stroma is the layer of tissue underneath the outer surface of the cornea.

Corneal Mineralization – Eye Ulcer In The Horse Will Not Heal

Corneal mineralization occurs from calcium deposits in the eye. Horses with this type of ulcer have either recurrent anterior uveitis or inflammation of the cornea.

Eosinophilic Keratitis

Eosinophilic keratitis is believed to occur from exposure to either an allergen or parasites, which can lead to one or both eyes being affected. Due to its nature, it can be a tricky ulcer to detect.

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Corneal Edema

Corneal edema occurs when fluid builds up in the stromal layer on the surface of the eye. This type of ulcer is caused by when the corneal ulcer allows fluid to get to the stroma. It can also occur from a dysfunction of the deepest layer of the cornea that causes fluid buildup in the stroma, leading to corneal ulcers forming.

Corneal Infection – Eye Ulcer In The Horse Will Not Heal

Corneal infection is generally caused by bacteria or fungi. Such bacteria to cause the infection include Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Pseudomonas, and fungi including Aspergillus and Fusarium.

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Keratomalacia And Stromal Loss

Keratomalacia and Stromal Loss lead to the dreaded melting ulcer. Melting ulcers are a very serious infection of the cornea. They can turn bad very quickly, as in less than 24 they can cause a perforated eye.

What Can Cause Eye Ulcers?

There are many things that can lead to eye ulcers in horses. Scratches, abrasions, foreign objects,  ingrown eyelashes, fungi, and bacteria can all cause an eye ulcer to develop in horses. Ulcers are classified by what caused them.

Signs Of Eye Ulcers And What To Do

Horses with eye ulcers will generally show signs such as a watery eye with discharge, a partially or completely closed eye, redness, swelling, a constricted pupil, and a crater on the surface of the eye. The ulcer will generally also be painful, leading to the horse being sensitive to light. In some cases, a horse may have a cloudy blue cornea and a “fuzzy/blurred” appearance to the eye.

Surgery - Eye Ulcer In The Horse Will Not Heal

If your horse shows signs of a corneal ulcer, you should contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can then assess the severity of the ulcer based on your horse’s symptoms and the appearance of the eye.

Most mild eye ulcers can be treated with an ointment for pain and an ointment for infection. To help a horse during the healing process, it is a good idea to put an eye mask on them and turn off the lights in their stall.

What To Do When The Eye Ulcer In The Horse Will Not Heal

In some cases, just a fly mask for protection, reducing light exposure and antibiotics are enough to treat an ulcer. In general, ulcers will heal within three to seven days time. However, treatment may need to be taken a step further by administering systemic non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or antifungals.

If you believe your horse has a melting ulcer, aggressive treatment is needed immediately. So reach out to your veterinarian right away for help as this condition can lead to a perforated eye.

If your horse’s eye ulcer is not better within seven days or within the number of days you are administering medicine, contact your veterinarian. Your horse may need additional medicine to treat the ulcer or just a larger dose of medication. In some serious cases, if the eye ulcer is continuously getting worse, surgery may be required.

Surgery – Eye Ulcer In The Horse Will Not Heal

For cases like melting ulcers, surgery is common to prevent perforation of the eye. Surgical options available for melting ulcers include keratectomy, conjunctival autografts, or amniotic membrane grafts.

Signs Of Eye Ulcers And What To Do

Treating Eye Ulcers In Horses

Eye ulcers are a common occurrence in horses. Though most can be treated with antibiotics, some require more advanced treatment.

Do you have any questions regarding an eye ulcer in the horse will not heal? If so, please ask your eye ulcer questions in the comments.


What Happens if an Eye Ulcer Doesn’t Heal?

If an eye ulcer doesn't heal, it can lead to a more serious infection. In melting ulcers, perforation of the eye can occur if the ulcer isn't treated immediately.

What Causes Nonhealing Corneal Ulcer?

Nonhealing ulcers occur because of an abnormal adhesion of corneal epithelial cells to the anterior stroma. The anterior stroma is the layer of tissue underneath the outer surface of the cornea.

How Long Does an Eye Ulcer Take to Heal in Horses?

Generally, it will take three to seven days for an eye ulcer to heal in a horse. In more serious cases, the healing process may take longer.

What Should You Do if a Corneal Ulcer is Not Responding?

If a corneal ulcer is not responding, contact your veterinarian to seek further treatment. It is also a good idea to put a fly mask on your horse and turn off the lights in their stall to help the healing process.