We never know how the day is going to go when we get up every morning, because we never know what we're going to find. That's what happens when you're caring for more than 80 animals. Today's 'morning surprise' was finding that our mare Lilah had punctured her right eye overnight. This wasn't your typical corneal ulcer, but a deep, penetrating wound that went all the way through the cornea and into her eye. The internal contents of her eye were leaking out and down her face. I couldn't imagine the pain.
Lilah can see but has night blindness, so she's the spirited boss of the sighted horse herd during the day but a meek little thing at night. When this trauma happened she was in her corral, which has smooth Priefert panels for fencing, so we have no idea at this point how she did this.
Ironically, our equine vet, Dr. Erin Taylor, has been in Florida this week attending a special equine ophthalmology program taught by Dr. Dennis Brooks, Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine, and three other leading equine ophthalmologists. Thus I called Dr. Angela Langer, Erin's colleague at Blue Mountain Veterinary Hospital, when we discovered Lilah's injury.
Angela said she would get here as fast as she could, and in the meantime she had me inject some IV banamine in Lilah for pain control. Angela arrived with Amy P., the fourth-year vet student from Oklahoma State University who had been out here a couple of weeks ago with Erin as part of her 'externship' training. In the photo at top, that's Angela on the left doing surgery while Amy assists. This is what Lilah's eye looked like when we got her in the horse stock:
It actually looked worse than this, but her eyelashes are covering up the actual puncture site. There was nothing we could do other than take the eye out -- it's called enucleation -- so Angela and Amy got Lilah sedated and proceeded to surgery:
This procedure is called a 'standing enucleation' because the horse is sedated, rather than put under general anesthesia, to remove the eye. This eliminates the risks associated with anesthetizing horses. A landmark study published in last month's issue of the medical journal Veterinary Surgery evaluated the use of standing enucleations as an alternative to the same surgery under general anesthesia, and concluded: "These results demonstrate that an eye can be safely and humanely removed without having to anesthetize the patient, making it a safer, more economical approach." (My emphasis.)
And here's Angela cleaning up Lilah's face after the surgery:
While we had Lilah sedated we noticed her left eye was undergoing changes, but what exactly was going on we weren't sure. When Erin returns, fresh from her ophthalmology training, she can tell us whether Lilah will be joining the ranks of the blind horse herd some day!