Pink Eye in Horses

4 min read



To protect the eye from further infection, your veterinarian will probably prescribe an antibiotic ointment or drops that can be applied to the eye and surrounding lids. Most topical medications such as these must be applied to the infected eye 2-3 times a day.


Specific care will depend on the results of the laboratory tests. If a foreign material is found to be the cause, the eye will be cleansed thoroughly and ointments and drops applied to encourage healing and prevent infection. An anti-inflammatory medication may also be given to decrease swelling and inflamed tissue, as well as to treat discomfort.


Your veterinarian will advise you in cleaning techniques for your horse's eye(s). A gentle saline solution is usually mixed and used one or more times daily throughout the length of treatment, and the eyes protected from dust, harsh light, and flies. Your horse's sleeping space should be kept especially clean, and flies kept to a minimum — as much as that is possible.


To protect your horse's eyes further from irritating flies (which can also conduct bacteria into the eyes), use a fly mask to prevent the flies from gaining access to any part of your horse's face. Placing a fan in the stall can also help discourage the accumulation of flies.


After a period of time, the symptoms for pink eye should clear up and vision should return to normal.


Living and Management


It is important to keep in mind that symptoms of pink eye will often become less apparent, with the horse showing all indication of being healed of the infection before the infection has been fully eradicated from the body. It is therefore important that any antibiotics that have been prescribed are used in their entirety for the length of time that they have been prescribed. Often, when a medication is not used in its entirety, the infection will recur, sometimes more severely than before.


Usually, an uncomplicated case of conjunctivitis will not affect the horse’s vision but will make it sensitive to light. If possible, keeping your horse away from brightly lit areas during convalescence will help reduce squinting and tearing of the affected eye. It is important to monitor the eye very closely during its time of healing. If the horse accidentally bumps or scratches the diseased eye, it can make the irritation worse and even introduce more infection. Complications of conjunctivitis include corneal ulceration and even a corneal abscess. However, most cases of conjunctivitis heal quickly with minimal complications.


Some horses seem prone to pink eye and it may be a seasonal problem for some horses, especially those with other allergy problems or sensitivities. If this is the case with your horse, keeping an extra tube of antibiotic ophthalmic ointment on hand is a good idea.




Keeping your horse in a clean, well-ventilated area is the best prevention against pink eye and many other conditions. Additionally, since some causes of this eye disease are infectious, if your horse is boarded at a barn with many other horses, it is always a good practice to not share items such as grooming equipment and feeding buckets, especially if other horses have just returned from a show or other social outing.