Moon Blindness—A Life Sentence?

moon blindness

My 10 y/o Warmblood mare was just recently diagnosed with ERU or Moon Blindness in her right eye. I was told by the vet that she would have to be on a daily dose of aspirin for the rest of her life. I am worried about ulcers, is there a specific aspirin that I should be using? How often should I have her checked for ulcers? She has never had a history of ulcers or other digestive issues (KNOCK ON WOOD).

Thank you so much,
KP, Illinois


Dear KP,
While we often associate Moon Blindness (ERU or Equine Recurrent Uveitis), with appaloosas, it can develop in any age and breed of horse, including warmbloods like yours. I see that you live in Illinois–there are some very good equine veterinarians as well as board certified veterinary ophthalmologists out there! For starters (if you haven’t already), I suggest you ask your vet to refer you to one of these “animal eye doctors” for a second opinion. An expert in the field has special tools to accurately measure the pressure in the eyes to confirm the diagnosis as well as make sure the prescribed treatment and management program is working. The veterinary ophthalmologist may also offer a more aggressive treatment protocol to start with—such as steroids and antibiotics—since the main goal of therapy is to preserve vision by reducing inflammation and therefore permanent damage to the eye. Some horses respond to daily aspirin after an initial course of steroids or flunixin meglumine (Banamine) while others don’t, so it’s important to know early on if this particular regimen is effective for your horse.

In addition to pharmaceuticals, talk to your regular vet and the veterinary ophthalmologist about adding specific supplements to her diet to help manage inflammation, a potentially overactive immune system and oxidative stress. There’s MSM, which research shows has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities, and Omega 3 Fatty Acids, with their proven inflammation-fighting abilities at the cellular level especially in the retina, brain and heart tissues. Also consider a comprehensive antioxidant package that includes Vitamins A, E and C as well as minerals Selenium, Zinc, Copper and Manganese and other ingredients. One of my favorite supplements for any kind of syndrome where the immune system may be is involved is APF, which contains adaptogenic herbs that help dial systems back to normal or homeostasis.

Finally, because you expressed the very real concern about the long-term use of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (aspirin) on her GI tract, adding digestive support is an excellent idea. Specific agents which have been shown to support a healthy stomach lining include licorice, L-glutamine, pectin-lecithin, and others. Add probiotics, prebiotics and enzymes to help maintain normal function throughout the entire digestive system, including the hindgut.

And don’t forget adding a fly mask to her wardrobe, winter or summer. Year-round protection from the sun as well as insects has been shown to go a long way towards reducing inflammation in the eye and future flare-ups.

For more information on ERU, please visit the topic “Moon Blindness” under Common Equine Conditions on our Horse Health Info page.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM MA, currently serves as the Medical Director/Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak Equine. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other locations. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association and enjoys training and showing her trakehner Newman in her spare time.  Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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