Bailey is a 12 year old Appaloosa, and one of our best lesson horses. Yesterday I took off his mask for his daily eye check to find the pretty blue hidden beneath a yellow cloud and swollen lid. Bailey was diagnosed with Equine Recurrent Uveitis a few years ago, and despite surgery, he still suffers from occasional episodes. This is his second flare up in the past two months. Prior to last month he was flare up free for almost a year.
Bailey is a sweetheart of a horse and always a trooper despite the extremely painful episodes. He stands in his stall with his head stretched, tilted to the side paitently waiting as i fumble with the three ointment concotion. One antibiotic, one dialator, and one steriod. He knows the routine, and doesn't even mind the foul taste of banamine as long as its followed immediatley with cookies.
Equine recurrent uveitis (ERU) is the most common cause of blindness in the horse. Uveitis is also known as "Moon blindness" due the recurring nature of the disease once thought to coincide with the phases of the moon. Despite extensive research, the causes of ERU are still unknown. In general, the disease is believed be an immune-related disease, where the horses own cells attack the eye. ERU is triggered by many different sources, including bacteria,viruses, and parasites. Direct trauma to the eye and stress of any kind can also be sources of ERU flare ups. Identifying the source may then be very difficult, and in many cases, the source is never identified.
Any inflammatory condition of the eye is extremely painful, but the inflammation associated with ERU is also very damaging. Each flare up inflicts more damage, causing the horses vision worsen a little more each time. In extreme cases, the eye is so badly damaged and the pain so difficult to manage that removal of the eye is the only humane option. Diligence in cleaning and checking for any signs of change have helped to catch the episodes early enough to maintain Bailey's site.
Unfortunately, without knowing what causes the onset of the symptoms all we can do is wait and treat as quickly as possible. The limitations of treating with western medicine have become frustrating enough for me to research alternatives. The conventional treatments are still necessary, especially when dealing with an ulceration. However, in my opinion re balancing the immune system, and maintaining overall health could greatly reduce the occurrence of the episodes.
I found a two interesting web sites Natural pet health blog and Holistic Horsekeeping that suggest several homeopathic remedies, including natural supplements to address nutritional deficiencies,and topical treatments to manage pain.
I also plan to try a supplement that we used at Meredith Manor for horses with EPM, Cushings, and extreme stress. Transfer Factor, and Transfer Factor Plus by a company called 4life. Transfer Factors are messenger molecules with intelligence, commonly known as cytokines. These small proteins act as the brains for the immune system. Transfer Factor performs three immune system functions. They identify infectious agents, and instruct the immune system to produce antibodies (boosts immune defense). Transfer Factor claims to modulates and balance an overactive immune system (i.e. autoimmune diseases and allergies).
While I haven't heard of many people using Transfer Factor to assist symptoms of Uveitis, I think it would be a worth wile experiment. We had great results using transfer factor with EPM and I frequently administer the 7 day stress paks for traveling or high stress situations. In eastern medicine the emphasis is on overall wellness instead of treating a disease. It's just a shot in the dark, but for Bailey I think its worth a try.