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Horse Disease Focus - Pink Eye

Updated on March 6, 2013

Pink Eye In Horses

Pink eye, more formally known as conjunctivitis, occurs in horses on occasion. The three lead causes are viral infection, bacterial infection, or a foreign body in the eye. Some flies transmit a bacteria that causes conjunctivitis. An excessively dusty environment can sometimes cause similar symptoms.


The symptoms of pink eye are fairly obvious. The eye will look redder than normal, with the eyelid often being swollen. A discharge from the eye (which may or may not be clear) is common. The horse may close its eyes more than normal and he may show signs of pain when exposed to sudden bright light.

If you suspect pink eye, the vet should be called immediately and the horse isolated from other horses.


The treatment for conjunctivitis is simple. The vet will first determine the cause of the condition. This might involve taking a culture of the discharge or using a fluorescein stain to check the eye for abrasions or foreign objects.

The eye should be thoroughly and carefully cleaned. In most cases, the vet will prescribe antibiotic drops that are applied to the eye two to three times a day for a set period of time. Antibiotics should be used for the full prescribed time even if the horse looks better. The eye should be rinsed with saline every day during the period. It is a good idea to put a fly mask on until the horse has fully recovered to keep away dust and flies.

As the horse may have temporary vision problems, it is best to keep him inside or in a small, well shaded paddock. In most cases, the horse can still be worked, but rest might be a good idea if vision problems appear to be present.


A clean and dust-free environment goes a long way towards preventing pink eye. Bacterial or viral conjunctivitis is also highly infectious. New horses should always be isolated for two weeks and their eyes should be checked. (I have seen pink eye go through a barn like wildfire because somebody petted a horse that was in isolation and then petted another horse).

Bacterial pink eye is extremely contagious even across species. Dogs and other farm animals should also be kept away from an infected horse. Children should not be allowed to handle a horse with conjunctivitis as they can be particularly vulnerable to catching it. When grooming and treating the horse, disposable gloves should be worn and any caregivers should monitor themselves for symptoms of the condition. (It's not serious, but it is very, very annoying). Tack and grooming equipment used on an infected horse should be disinfected. If possible, use separate grooming equipment until the horse has recovered.


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    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 5 years ago from Spain

      I have loved horses all my life so read your hub even though I don´t own any. It was very interesting reading. Voted you up etc, and going to follow you. Thanks