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Eye removal on old pony

mavandkaz

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31 August 2007
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391
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Hampshire
I know this should be in vets, but more traffic here and will need to make decision fairly quickly.

So pony is a 35yr old Shetland. Last week she had a swollen and gummy eye. Vet saw her on Friday and said there was mild conjunctivitis, but also found two small ulcers. She was more concerned about the swelling and the fact her pupil had gone a blue cloudy colour. She thought there was swelling between the membranes of the eye itself.

She has been on Bute over the weekend, and some antibac ointment. She improved hugely, and vet saw her again yesterday morning. We were both happy with how it looked - still some swelling but a much happier pony. So decided to drop bute to once a day.

This morning it is back to being swollen and cloudy, after missing just one dose of Bute. Vet is going to come back out and have another look.
But, it is looking like the only option is to have the eye removed. I know she will be fine with one eye, but I am concerned about putting such an old pony through such a potentially stressful process.

Does anyone have any experience with putting an old horse through this, or something similar?
 

CanteringCarrot

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1 April 2018
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310
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Germany
A fellow livery owns a Warmblood that is 29 years old and had an eye removed a few months ago due to persistent problems including inflammation and cloudiness. He was at the clinic for 2 or 3 days maybe? He seemed to handle it well enough given his age.
 

chaps89

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8 July 2009
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Surrey
I'm sure you have already, but speak to your vet more closely about what is involved, the risks, prognosis and after care, and probably costs too.
Is she otherwise well and healthy in herself or does she have other health issues? Is she generally calm about being travelled/at the vets/stabled/being handled?
If she has other health issues or would find it stressful, or even if its very expensive, I'd be calling it a day I'm afraid, and tbh I'd probably have to think very hard before putting her through it even if not. She's reached a grand old and obviously been well looked after by you.
 

mavandkaz

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31 August 2007
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391
Location
Hampshire
I'm sure you have already, but speak to your vet more closely about what is involved, the risks, prognosis and after care, and probably costs too.
Is she otherwise well and healthy in herself or does she have other health issues? Is she generally calm about being travelled/at the vets/stabled/being handled?
If she has other health issues or would find it stressful, or even if its very expensive, I'd be calling it a day I'm afraid, and tbh I'd probably have to think very hard before putting her through it even if not. She's reached a grand old and obviously been well looked after by you.
This is exactly why I'm asking for people's experiences.
When this was first brought up, my first reaction was there was no way I'm going to put her through that, and vet was supportive.
However, on further discussions with the vet it seems it's not as big a surgery as I thought. Done under standing sedation, good recovery rates, minimal risk of infection etc.
My big worry is not the surgery as such, but everything else associated with it. She has only ever been a companion, never been anywhere. So the thought of putting her through the stress of travelling etc is my main worry. She is generally a quiet, sensible sort, but this will be completely new to her. She's not a cuddly pony, doesn't like being groomed and fussed etc. Her Shetland companion would have to go with her, as he would freak out if left alone, so she would at least have company. No other health issues other then dodgy teeth.
Vet is pricing it up for me, and although it's not an issue, it will form part of the decision.
 

tristar

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23 August 2010
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3,394
we had one done by sedation, he travelled home the same day, but he was assessed by an expert in this field with the best of equipment in order to see if it was necessary to remove the eye, it was, we have had others who got better but it took a while
 

springer-tb

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20 January 2019
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36
I've seen one done under standing sedation in the horses own stable. I was astonished that such a thing could be done and the horse was unperturbed by the whole thing. I think she was kept stabled for 24 hours then in a small paddock with a friend until the wound healed and was being ridden again within a month of the operation.
 

mavandkaz

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31 August 2007
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391
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Hampshire
I've seen one done under standing sedation in the horses own stable. I was astonished that such a thing could be done and the horse was unperturbed by the whole thing. I think she was kept stabled for 24 hours then in a small paddock with a friend until the wound healed and was being ridden again within a month of the operation.
I think I will ask if this is possible.
Vet said it's standing sedation. Obviously the risk of infection will be greater but I think her being kept calm and stress free is more important.
I can turn the field shelter into a stable and she's happy in there
 

Goldenstar

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28 March 2011
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35,289
I would go for it , however no one could criticise you for deciding it was time to call it a day .
I had a horse who had an eye removed she did really well .
 

Lownthwaite Rob

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10 June 2019
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197
My Fell pony had an eye removed when he was about 15. He coped brilliantly and we still competed showing and showjumping. A few years later he had an ulcer on the other eye which was terrifying. I had to keep him stabled, apart from a walk and some grass in the evening when it was darker and I held ice packs on his closed eye lid, over the ulcer, twice a day.He also had some eye drops or cream, can’t remember exactly it was a long time ago now. Thankfully the ulcer cleared up quickly. You’d probably find he would cope very well.
 

Chianti

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20 February 2008
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320
My 18 year old Argentinian TB had a bad eye ulcer that wouldn't heal and in the end the vet stitched her eye lids together and it healed. A couple of weeks later she got another ulcer in the same eye. That did heal quite quickly and we then got a veterinary opthalmologist to look at her. She said that my mare had recently had a blow to the head and that if she had another ulcer the eye should be removed. I spoke to my vet about this - I wasn't keen as she was retired and I wanted her to have the best quality of life possible. He wasn't keen either and said he wouldn't do it, so it didn't happen. She then began to get eye ulcers in both eyes on a fairly regular basis and was PTS a couple of years later when she became tired of vet visits and eye drops. I was glad I hadn't had the eye removed as she probably wouldn't have had the last couple of years as I don't think she would have coped with only one eye and recurring ulcers in that. I would be reluctant to put and old girl through the process and then her having to adjust. I know that they do and you see top class show jumpers and dressage horses but she's a good age and doesn't have to do it.
 
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In a paddock far far away
My Highland pony had her eye removed a couple of years ago following recurrent problems . The first time it occured she didn't respond well to treatment and ended up being kept in a blacked out stable for nearly 3 weeks with the vet visiting daily and me administering drops and cream 3 x daily . She couldn't tolerate any light and ( as it was summer - short nights ) I could only turn her out after11pm and then had to get up and bring her in at @ 4.30am before it got light . She was so sensitive that even at night she had to wear a full face hood with the affected eye blacked out . She eventually recovered - the vets bill was @ £1000 .
When the problem recurred 5 months later I asked the vet about removing the eye . The pony was 15 at the time and had had a long and successful career so I wasn't worried about not being able to show her - she owed me nothing . The vet agreed that it was probably the best option . She went to the vets , was done by standing sedation and came home the next day . She was absolutely fine , recovered quickly and seem to take the whole thing in her stride , in fact I think being pain free made her a lot happier . It's a pretty quick and simple operation - I think it cost me around £350 .
 

BBP

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17 July 2008
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4,453
My old girl was 39 when she got an eye ulcer that wouldn’t heal. One day I went up to find it had gone full thickness and the content of the eyeball had basically leaked out (sorry if too much info). The choice was either removal of what was left or PTS as it would be incredibly painful. At nearly 40, getting a little frail and underweight and not having travelled anywhere for 10 years we decided it was better for her to let her go. They didn’t offer us the procedure at home. However, if she had been a few years younger and in more robust health and a better traveller I would have gone for it as it doesn’t seem too complex a procedure and most horses seem to cope very well. In fact we think my girl had very poor vision in that eye anyway after being kicked in the head in her 20s, so it probably wouldn’t have made any difference to her.
 

Ownedby4horses

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7 May 2020
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402
I’ve known a horse done in her stable under standing sedation (I didn’t watch as I have a thing about eyeballs), she was late twenties and coped absolutely fine.

On the information you’ve given I would definitely get it done, even if done at the vets she’ll have her pal with her and if she is the sensible sort, I bet she will cope with the travel and being away from home just fine (as she’ll have her pal with her too).
 

mavandkaz

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31 August 2007
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391
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Hampshire
Thanks everyone for all your input.
Still no idea what I'm going to do. Different vet came out today and she was much more thorough - apparently she has the heart of a much younger pony! The ulcers have now grown and joined to make one big one. It's been given a good clean and she did remove a small foreign body from under the eye lid (would be amazing if this was the issue but I doubt it)
Also gave her something to relax and enlarge the pupil. She did say she could see where the eye was trying to repair itself.
So vet out again on Thursday. She also reiterated how well horses cope with the procedure, and that my other Shetland could go with her, and some horses go home the same day, but also understood if I didn't go for surgery. We did agree that we will not prolong treatment - she either greatly improves by the end of the week, will have it removed, or will be PTS. I won't have her poked and proded for weeks on end.
So lots and lots to think about
 

Morgan123

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2 January 2008
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1,352
Hiya, i totally feel for you. I had the same in a TB mare who was about 33 - hers was from a recurring ulcer which was painful and just wouldn't heal, even with one of those horrible eye catheter things and a hospital stay. I know horses do fine with one eye but I just couldn't reconcile doing this in such an old horse - but the alternatives were to carry on with expensive treatment which wasn't working and left her in pain, or PTS when she was otherwise healthy. So tough!

The vet recommended removing it and I immediately thought "no way" but then thought harder about it because there was no ideal option. I spoke to lots of different vets about what they would do if it was their horse (I work at a vet school so this was straightforward). They all said they'd just go for it. So I couldn't see any better options, and we did.

I was absolutely terrified and I think I cried for the whole three hours she was in the surgery (I'd prev lost a horse while under a GA - obviously this is standing sedation but anyway I was scared out of my wits that something would happen).

Anyway, she was absolutely fine. She'd been wearing an eye cover on that eye anyway so in terms of vision it didn't make much difference, tho I could tell she got a shock the first time the bandages were removed so her face was naked and she still couldn't see :-(. But yeh she adapted really quickly, and didn't seem to be hugely in pain or anything, the wound healed quickly, and off we went, no further problems.

I still feel like it's a massive thing to put an old animal through, but I think faced with the same decision again I can't see what I'd do differently. If you want moral support feel free to PM me, I know exactly what you're going through!
 

mavandkaz

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Joined
31 August 2007
Messages
391
Location
Hampshire
Hiya, i totally feel for you. I had the same in a TB mare who was about 33 - hers was from a recurring ulcer which was painful and just wouldn't heal, even with one of those horrible eye catheter things and a hospital stay. I know horses do fine with one eye but I just couldn't reconcile doing this in such an old horse - but the alternatives were to carry on with expensive treatment which wasn't working and left her in pain, or PTS when she was otherwise healthy. So tough!

The vet recommended removing it and I immediately thought "no way" but then thought harder about it because there was no ideal option. I spoke to lots of different vets about what they would do if it was their horse (I work at a vet school so this was straightforward). They all said they'd just go for it. So I couldn't see any better options, and we did.

I was absolutely terrified and I think I cried for the whole three hours she was in the surgery (I'd prev lost a horse while under a GA - obviously this is standing sedation but anyway I was scared out of my wits that something would happen).

Anyway, she was absolutely fine. She'd been wearing an eye cover on that eye anyway so in terms of vision it didn't make much difference, tho I could tell she got a shock the first time the bandages were removed so her face was naked and she still couldn't see :-(. But yeh she adapted really quickly, and didn't seem to be hugely in pain or anything, the wound healed quickly, and off we went, no further problems.

I still feel like it's a massive thing to put an old animal through, but I think faced with the same decision again I can't see what I'd do differently. If you want moral support feel free to PM me, I know exactly what you're going through!
Thank for this, that really helps.
The vet mentioned a stay at the vet with a catheter, but we decided against this as would be too stressful, and although she is good she does not appreciate being handled more then necessary.
 
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