Ask an Expert

Cataracts in Horses

June 7, 2010

Rest easy regarding your older horse’s aging eyes.

Question:

One of my horses (20+ gelding) shows signs of cataracts. Does every horse get them? Is there help for it, and how will cataracts hinder his vision?

Answer:

Yes, most horses (and dogs and humans) get some degree of cataract as they age (we call them senile cataracts).

The good news is that cataracts do not appear to affect horses’ vision the way they affect our human vision!

Horses also get an age-related change of their lens called nuclear sclerosis. Nuclear sclerosis causes a hardening of the lens and decreased lens flexibility, and is the most-common reason for humans to need bifocals as they age. Nuclear sclerosis can be confused with cataract, but does not appear to cause visual deficits in horses.

If you are noticing any changes in your horse’s vision, I definitely recommend a complete eye exam by a veterinarian or a veterinary ophthalmologist.

– Dr. Amber Labelle, member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners

Get the low-down on more equine diseases and illnesses by downloading Common Horse Health Issues, one of AQHA’s valuable downloadable reports. You’ll get a better understanding of the illnesses and diseases horses can face.