Today we will address horses and eyelid injuries. These are more common than you may think. Horses will scratch their itchy eyelids with any small sharp object – barbed wire, a piece of tin, a fence post, or pretty much anything they can find. They are very meticulous with this and normally do a good job. The problem comes when they get spooked while performing this delicate task.
I have seen horses from just a few days old all the way to twenty-somethings with eyelid lacerations. Many people think you should just remove the hanging piece of the eyelid because it is such a small flap of tissue. However, the eyelids perform vital functions and should be repaired at all costs.
The eyelashes provide protection from bugs and allow the horse to “feel” how close something is to the eye itself. There are tear glands that produce a constant flow of lubrication to prevent dry eye and subsequent corneal ulcers. The cornea is the clear part of the eye, and if damaged, can result in blindness. The head, in general, has a massive blood supply, so even though the flap of eyelid tissue may be small, there is enough blood supply to allow it to heal if it is put back into the proper position.
Here is a “before” picture:
You can see the eyelashes are completely removed from their proper position. If not corrected, this horse will have lifelong eye problems. The repair involves sedation of the horse, numbing of the eyelid, and returning the eyelid to the proper anatomical position with sutures. You must be careful to keep the suture material away from the cornea, or it could cause scratches. The cornea and other eye structures must be checked for damage and treated if necessary.
After the eyelid is repaired appropriately, it usually heals quickly and very well. Here is the “after” picture:
The sutures will be removed in 7-10 days, and the horse will normally need to be sedated again for suture removal. After all, sharp objects around horse eyes don’t turn out well.