Fungal infection in the eye - A success story! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 12-28-2013, 11:56 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
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Fungal infection in the eye - A success story!

I realized that this story might be of use to someone now or in the future, so I wanted to share it.

We have a 15-year-old, Appendix Quarter mare that I took up to a boarding stable this summer. We were trying to sell her (too many horses!), so it was my job to ride her out and possibly get some photos and video of her. After I got her there, she developed an infection in her eye. It made her eye somewhat swollen, and a bit cloudy. We've had bacterial infections in horses before, and assumed that's what it was, so we treated it with an antibiotic. It only grew in response. Finally I called the vet, and we took her in to see an equine Opthomologist. They stained it, and took samples for a culture. They said the infection went back 60-70% in her eye (depth). Unfortunately it was found to be a fungal infection, Aspergillus in particular. It's native to soils everywhere, as far as I know, so it was a fluke that it caused an infection. Most likely the mare scratched her eye and it invaded.

Immediately the vet gave us our options. Surgically removing the eye was at the top of the list. With an infection that deep, it was unlikely to be cured, and they didn't want the eye to start melting, if I'm remembering right. We declined. So they gave us a range of topical eye ointments and drops to apply to her eye.
Her treatment included these medications:
- atropine (twice daily)
- an antibacterial liquid (Ofloxacin) (4-6 times daily)- hypertonic saline drops (4-6 times daily)
- plasma drops (2-4 times daily)
- banamine (originally twice daily, but lowered to once a day)
- Silver Sulfadiazine ointment (SSD) (4-6 times daily)

The SSD was the actual fungal treatment. It is actually found in burn creams, and the little tube specifically said "Not for opthomology use".

We treated the mare 4-6 times daily, and applied all of these medical liquids and ointments directly to her eye for over 3 months. For a while, I was doing it in the summer, as I had time. I had a friend take over for me one weekend, so I could visit home, and when I came back I discovered the mare's eye had gotten horribly worse. It went from being a 3-4 mm cloudy circle to an entirely cloudy eye. I was devastated. The vet stated that it could have been caused by the impact from a kick, but this mare is pretty fast on her feet, and so I suspected that my friend just hadn't given her the treatments, or hadn't given them correctly. Either way, it set us back quite a bit. We basically started from square one again. Once school started up, I sent the mare home to my Mom, as I could no longer make 4-6 trips a day out to the barn. During all of this time, I never kept the horse stalled, as it was dustier in her stall and run than it was in the pasture. This particular mare couldn't be kept stalled, either, as she hated being confined, and loves to run.

My Mom is an RN, and asked the Opthomologist about the possibility of changing a horse's body pH, and using that as a way to combat the fungal infection (its done in humans). The Opthomologist had no idea, and hadn't heard of it before. So my Mom insisted on feeding the mare a handful of cranberries 2-3 times a day, along with the other eye applications. We're not sure if it helped or not, but it did make the mare more receptive to the eye treatments! She loved those cranberries!

Slowly but surely, the circular, cloudy patch on her eye grew smaller. Before I took the mare home to my Mom, the vet insisted that we get her a special eye mask, with a plastic covering over the infected eye. We did that, and it prohibited dust from further irritating the eye, and causing further spread of infection. I do believe it helped speed up the recovery process, and kept her from rubbing out the eye ointment. She hated that thing, though she tolerated it at the time.

Eventually my Mom noticed increased vascularization in the eye, and the mare started to get a bit more sensitive towards eye treatments. The vets said this would happen, as the fungus would slough off, and the tissue underneath the fungus would be very sensitive, and it would hurt. When we no longer saw any change in the circumference of the cloudy spot, we took her back in to the Opthomologist to have it reevaluated. Amazingly, the fungal infection was completely cleared up, and the 2 mm cloudy spot was just a scar from the initial scratch! We'd probably been treating a perfectly healthy eye for a few weeks, but we couldn't have known since we lived 3 hours away from the Opthomologist (and no other vets in the area had the equipment to make a positive diagnosis). Thankfully the scar is located right in the middle of her eye, so she has no visual impairments whatsoever.

I was surprised to find out that the SSD ointment was completely experimental on the vets' part. I wish I'd known at the time, but it did do the trick, as long as it was applied 4-6 times daily. We caused quite a buzz amongst the opthomology and pharmiceutical depts, as they thought her recovery was remarkable. Unfortunately I do not have pictures throughout the recovery process, although the vet did document it. I suspect they'll write up something about it, as they were very thorough. I will see if I can get a picture of the scar that's still remaining.

Hopefully this story helps anyone out there dealing with an equine fungal infection in the eye. We were worried sick over this for months, and the daily treatments got old REALLY fast, for us AND the horse! Although the medications and vet visits probably cost just as much the eye removal surgery, we preferred this outcome so much more!
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Last edited by TurkishVan; 12-28-2013 at 12:05 PM.
TurkishVan is offline  
post #2 of 6 Old 12-29-2013, 12:10 AM
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Thank you for sharing your story. What a commitment you and your mother had to make, putting eye drops and ointments in her eye 4-6 times a day!
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post #3 of 6 Old 12-29-2013, 12:27 AM
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That's a terrific story and I am so glad you took the time to share it with us. I know from my own experience that it will indeed help someone else. ...and I just hope it's never me! LOL
Thanks again and you, your mother and the vet should all be very proud of yourselves for thinking beyond the easy answers and finding a new way to help that lucky mare. The world needs more of you guys!
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post #4 of 6 Old 12-29-2013, 01:28 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you! :)

It was a very long, drawn out process. My mother now runs her farm, so it was (somewhat) easier for her to find the time to treat this mare, but I can see how it could be impossible for someone working full time. The vet did give us a quote to keep the mare and treat her as long as necessary. They started off with a base fee of $40/day, with additional costs for each application. It could easily have ended up costing $100/day, which was just not possible for us to pay. As it was, we spent a little over a thousand dollars, on the initial ophthalmology exam and the medications, over the course of 3 & 1/2 months or so. Not cheap at all, but the eye removal surgery would have cost around $800. This is a mare that would NOT have adjusted well to having one eye, so that just wasn't an option!

To make the situation worse, my mother's filly contracted what looked like an infection in HER eye, right after we brought this mare home! They were kept separate the entire time, of course. Thankfully the filly's "infection scare" turned out to be just a corneal scratch, but boy did it scare us at the time!

The vet did encourage us to insert a tube in the top of the eye that would make it easier to insert liquid medicines, but since the main treatment (the SSD) was an ointment, we figured it'd be quite useless, and the mare probably would have caught it on something and pulled it out anyway. My Mom was able to calm down the mare by gently massaging her closed eyelid until she relaxed. Then she would insert the liquid/ointment. I think many people mistakenly apply the ointments along the eye too, which doesn't help anything. You really need to get it directly IN the eye, so using two fingers to hold the eyelid apart is necessary. We also had to wait 5 minutes between the medication treatments, so the entire treatment usually took 20-25 minutes to complete. You'd feel like you'd just get done, only to go back out after a few hours and do it again!

One thing I really had to stress to people in my barn was that this was a fungal infection, and it was not transferable between horses. Many people just assumed that it was at first, and even the barn owner didn't truly believe me until I had the vet tell her so. I thought I was going to be evicted for a short time there! Whew!
TurkishVan is offline  
post #5 of 6 Old 05-15-2019, 04:17 PM
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Do you know what type of SSD was used? Like strength and how it was administered? My mare currently has a fungal eye infection which is pretty resistant to treatment and I’d like to talk to my horse’s ophthalmologist about what you did.

Arabgirl9605 is offline  
post #6 of 6 Old 05-20-2019, 12:11 PM
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My mare had almost the same thing this winter. Still not sure if it was fungal or not, but the treatment was almost identical. Took 3 months to heal with 4-6 different meds every day up, most of them a 1-2 times daily some 3-6 times daily with 7 minutes between each treatment. My barn owner is a saint! Most of the treatment fell on her shoulders since I work all day and live 30-40 minutes from the barn.

I am glad your mare's eye healed!
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