In checking the horses over at the pasture I noticed that our Quarter horse mare, Lacey, had an inflamed eye with a small lump in the corner. I waited a day to see if it would clear on its own and when it didn’t I gave my veterinarian a call. Wouldn’t you know, it was Friday of Labor Day Weekend and he was already on his way out of town.
I described what I was seeing and he asked if I had any eye ointment on hand – I did, but it was old. He told me to go ahead and use it as long as it did not have any cortisone in it and to give him a call after the weekend if it hadn’t gotten any better. I told him that it looked similar to “cherry eye” in a dog, but Dr. Harms explained that horses don’t get “cherry eye," which is an inflammation of a gland in the corner of a dog’s eye and horses don’t have that gland. I then asked him why I wasn’t to use an ointment with cortisone in it. He explained that if there is a scratch, abrasion or ulcer on the cornea, corticosteroids (cortisone) can exacerbate the problem by preventing the defect from healing, but it is helpful in reducing inflammation and preventing scarring.
By Tuesday after Labor Day I was still concerned and so I had the vet come out to take a look. His diagnosis was that it was most likely one of three things:
- conjunctivitis, which is essentially inflammation of the whites of the eye;
- a foreign body, which would most likely be a small piece of debris in the corner of the eye causing irritation; or
- squamous cell carcinoma, which is a tumor of a cell type that is found at the margins of the eye.
On the 5th day I called Dr. Harms again and told him that although it wasn’t any worse, it wasn’t any better either, so he changed to a different ointment with cyclosporine, which is to be put in the inflamed eye once every 12 hours.
I am very concerned as the lump in the corner of Lacey’s eye has grown and it is still red and sore looking. When I talked to Dr. Harms this morning he said to give the new ointment one more day and then tomorrow I am to take Lacey to his clinic. He plans to sedate her and then check the tear duct for a foreign body and will also take a sample to send to the lab to see if it is a squamous cell carcinoma. How I’m hoping it is a bug or a small seed that got in there, instead of a tumor!
* Addendum: while not an uplifting end to this story, read the follow-up here.