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RV’s Journey with Equine Recurrent Uveitis (ERU)

RV is a 21 year old thoroughbred who was diagnosed with ERU 3 years ago. We were in the midst of our showing career when he came in with his first flare-up. When his left eye did not clear up and the swelling was not going down, I called my vet. The vet treated him with topical ointments, (Atropine, Flubiprofen Sodium, and Neo Poly Dex Ophthalmic ointment) along with some banamine for inflammation. Unfortunately, this would not be the last time RV would have what I called an “eye infection.”


RV started getting more frequent flare-ups and they were getting harder and harder to treat. The vet started using internal steroids because he was getting immune to all the ointments in his eyes. At this point, I started doing some research on ERU since I had never heard of it before. I had learned that the vet needed to come out every time RV had a flare-up to make sure the ERU was not affecting his cornea, because if the vet were to put him on steroids, it could blind him. I also learned that not many people were familiar with this disease and there was no cure. The disease was starting to affect RV’s lifestyle, because he could not be ridden when he was being treated, and if it was bad weather conditions he had to stay in, (winds, bugs, hot weather trigger ERU flare-ups).

Just when I was getting out of the routine of calling the vet every week, the ERU was starting to move to his right eye. Unfortunately, this was not a normal flare-up; he had developed an ulcer that was bad enough to blind him for a short period of time. If that was not enough bad news, he had also developed a cataract in the left eye causing him to lose his vision. I had to make arrangements for him to get an exam at New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania the next day.

I remember how hard that day was; my poor horse could see nothing and had a really hard time getting in the trailer. RV has an in depth eye exam at New Bolton Center and the doctor’s informed me that his lens in his left eye had shifted and even if we were to remove his cataract, he would still not be able to see, however his right eye was treatable. New Bolton Center ended up putting a cathedar through his mane leading into his right eye. They were treating the eye 6 times a day to clear up the ulcer. RV came home with the cathedar in, and I continued to treat it for several weeks.

At this time, I was already looking into getting RV implants for both eyes. The implants are designed to be inserted under the bone of the eye and they release medicine every so often to control ERU flare-ups. RV was scheduled for surgery a few months later. RV’s surgery went well; he was home in 3 days. When he came home, I had noticed he was not eating and was not himself. I found out later that he had picked up a virus somewhere along the way. Needless to say, he also developed a flare-up, (when a horse’s immunity goes down, ERU attacks).

The implants did not get a chance to work because they take 6-8 weeks to begin treatment, and unfortunately RV was so immune to every medicine that nothing else worked either. We took him off everything, and were going to let the implants do their job. At this point, he could only see light and shadows through this right eye and there was no guarantee he would not get anymore flare-ups. I was not happy with these results and did some research on some other methods. This is when I started using the herbal treatments!

After speaking with many “herbal doctors,” I put a plan together for RV. I was going to detox his liver and kidneys of all the toxins and start putting him on herbs daily. To date he is on the following: Cipex (circulation), Eye Support( reduces inflammation), Super Immune Booster, Vitamin C (stress), and Vitamin B12 (ERU horses have a deficiency).

RV has been on the herbs since May of 2010 and he has been flare-up free, (let me remind you that before this he was having flare-ups weekly). He has not regained full sight in his right eye, however the ERU has gotten thinner and he can see more than just shadows and light. RV can see some close-up objects! RV is back into a riding routine, and goes out with a pony every day. I worked with him on getting him into a routine and letting him know his boundaries! I also watch the weather to make sure the conditions are ok for him to go out. The best advice I can give any horse owner is to be patient with your horse. It will take time for them to adjust! I gave up a lot during the time he was really sick to work with him! I wanted to get him back into a normal life and wanted him to be happy.

I also wish I knew back then what I know now. I would have put RV on the herbs right away and gotten the implants earlier. He may still have his sight if that happened. I share RV’s story to help educate other horse owners that are where I was. My vet is very impressed and could not believe RV’s progress the last time he saw him! Time is not on your side with ERU, and it will keep attacking if you do not get it under control, which I believe the herbs and implants have done for RV! His picture is below, which was taken in October of 2010. I have also dedicated a blog to RV’s journey with ERU- http://rvsjourney.blogspot.com