How to put medication in your horse’s eye

A while back I wrote a post stressing the importance of treating eye injuries quickly. Last week a reader asked me about techniques for actually putting medicine in your horse’s eye. It can get tricky when a 1200 pound animal decides it doesn’t appreciate your ministrations.

When Kroni had conjunctivitis or a scratch, I put triple antibiotic ophthalmic ointment in his eye every three hours. He was a pretty compliant horse; even after he know what I was going to do he didn’t object. I put a strip of the ointment on my finger, and use my other hand to open her eye. I then swiped the ointment into the “pocket” of the lower lid. I never try to apply the ointment directly from the tube. I’m afraid of poking my horse in the eye, but also

Other horses I’ve treated aren’t so accommodating. I had a mare who could get her head so high — it was like she had suddenly grown the neck of a giraffe.

For the more resistant horse, you need a more advanced technique. Here are some instructions that I found on from a vet tech.

The way we administer eye meds at the equine hospital is to stand facing the horse with their chin resting on our shoulder and the eye to be treated towards our face. Wrap the arm on the same side as the horse’s head up and over the horse’s nose and use that hand to lift the upper lid so that they eye remains open. Use the opposite hand to hold the medication and rest your fingers under the horse’s eye and put slight downward pressure to pull the lower lid down so that you can apply the medication inside the lower lid. This also allows your hand to move to follow the horse’s head should the horse move it’s head. This also allows you to control the horse’s head movement up, down and sideways.

It’s a good idea to get your horse used to having you touch his head (especially around his eyes) before you need to treat him. As part of my grooming routine I rub my horse’s face and cup my hand over his eye. There’s no guarantee that your horse will let you put medication in the second time you try . . . but at least you’ll get it in the first time. Treats help, too.

Here’s a link to a video that demonstrates how to successfully put medication in your horse’s eye.

2 thoughts on “How to put medication in your horse’s eye

  1. Thanks! I lucked out and my 16.3hh, 1300 lbs OTTB held his head down by my waist and waited once he figured out what I was doing. There was much squinting and face-making because he hated it, but he was great. I did about what you said, without any need to do any kind of holding in place. Smart boy knows if I’m poking at something bothering him it’s because I’m making it better. He’s the one who walks up to me and holds up a hoof as if to shake upon getting a stone bruise.
    It was the 14.2hh 800 lbs-er who was a pain, but she couldn’t get beyond my reach. For her, I ended up having to stand near her shoulder facing forward, with my elbow in her neck and hip against the point of her shoulder, and hand on the halter. She likes to try to back and rear, so I closed her in the 12×12 stall, and each time she acted like she wanted to go up would push into her with my hip to push her off balance and pull her head toward me so she was bent and couldn’t just fly back into a wall. It sounds awkward and I can’t describe it well, but it kept me out of hoof-injury territory and kept her grounded and didn’t allow her momentum to try to throw a tantrum. I then had to put the medicine in the corner of her eye. Luckily it cleared up after two applications of the medicine, though I did a few more after that like my vet recommended!

    Just an fyi: the prescription medication vets would normally use has now skyrocketed in price to somewhere around $90/tube. My vet told me to use terramycin instead as it’s almost as effective and he thought it would work since we were treating their eyes right away.

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