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Ask Dr. Vicky Lamb Your Own Question
Dr. Vicky Lamb
Dr. Vicky Lamb, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 892
Experience:  15 yrs small animal veterinarian
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My horse has runny eyes that accumulate a pus discharge ...

Customer Question

My horse has runny eyes that accumulate a pus discharge daily. The vet has looked at the eyes and says he doesn't think there is an infection and is probably normal for this horse. I don't think this can be right as the mare didn't have this pus discharge when she was younger. The vet flushed her tear ducts but didn't give any medication for the eye or take any smear to look at it further. I am worried this is not something to ignore and have wondered if there is a bacterial or fungal infection I should be treating.
Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Vicky Lamb replied 9 years ago.

What is the color and consistency of the discharge you are seeing from the eye?

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
It is white (not clear) and then dries up and gets crusty. Sometimes there is white globs of mucous floating on the eyeball. Generally it seems to come from the inner corner of the eye but like I said sometimes its just a big glob of it floating in the eye.

It seems you are a dog there a horse expert on staff too?

Thanks, Patrice
Expert:  Dr. Vicky Lamb replied 9 years ago.
Yes, I am usually answering dog and cat questions (your question was posted on the dog board). I have worked with horses previously. If you would prefer I opt out of answering this question and see if another expert with more horse experience is available, I would be happy to do this for you. :)
Customer: replied 9 years ago.
If you have previously worked with horses and have a good answer then please go ahead and give your opinion. I couldn't find how to get to a horse board??

Thank you, Patrice
Expert:  Dr. Vicky Lamb replied 9 years ago.


Horses can get several different issues in the eye that could cause a mucousy discharge. This is not normal, and, as you have noted, a new development for this mare. If the flushing of the tear ducts (a good treatment to start with) has not helped, then further examination of the eyes is needed to find the cause. This may require sedation of your mare.

Horses can get conjunctivitis (infections) that can be caused by bacterial, fungal, or viral, or parasitic causes. This is the diagnosis in most cases where there is ocular discharge, conjunctivitis is common in grazing horses. They can also get uveitis, which is an inflammation in the eye itself. This can be caused by the bacteria leptospirosis. There could be a foreign body causing the increased mucoid discharge. The discharge could also indicate an allergy or some other irritation in the eyes. There could be a cornea problem (scratch, infection, etc). These are not always obvious just by looking at the eye, special staining is needed to see if there are scratches on the cornea.

An initial exam might include looking at the eye, conjunctival scrapings to look at under the microscope, eye pressure measurements, eye stains, possible blood tests looking for leptospirosis or other diseases, etc.

At the very minimum, I would try an antibiotic drop, unless there are signs of uveitis, which requires a steroid as well as atropine. You will need a vet to help make the diagnosis. You might request your vet re-examine your mare, and if you don't feel confident with him, I would get a second opinion from another vet. The mucousy/purulent discharge is not normal and I wouldn't ignore it.

Here are some articles to read: (goes over many different eye issues in horses, and the associated clinical signs) (goes over conjunctivitis and other eye issues)

I hope this helps, let me know if you have further questions.

Customer: replied 9 years ago.

Thank you for your answer, I have been putting a triple antibiotic ointment (I had from last summer when my gelding poked his eye) in her eyes once a day for about 4-5 days now but still I go the next day and there is white discharge in the corners of her eyes coming out in about a 1/4 inch drop outside the eye. I'm wondering if I should do it twice a many days? ....that is about the maximum I could do it at this point in my schedule as she is boarded and I have to drive there.   I talked with the vet and he suggested I see another vet too as he said he didn't find any clinical signs of a problem. Strange how vets can have different opinions. Even my vet book shows the picture of white discharge as not normal. I paid that guy a lot of money to come out to the stable!!