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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • heterochromia;
  • uvea;
  • squamous cell carcinoma;
  • eye

Summary

A perception exists amongst referring veterinarians and the lay public that blue-eyed horses have increased frequency of ocular disease. The aim of this retrospective study was to assess the prevalence of ocular disease in horses with blue or heterochromic eyes relative to those with brown eyes. The medical records of horses presenting to either the Comparative Ophthalmology services or Equine Medicine/Surgery services at 2 institutions were reviewed. Signalment, ocular and nonocular diagnoses were recorded. Ocular disease was divided into 4 categories: adnexa, cornea, intraocular/orbit and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Owners were contacted by telephone to confirm iris colour. Chi-square analysis was used to compare group proportions. A total of 164 eyes of horses with ocular disease and 212 eyes of horses without ocular disease were included. Blue eyes were equally common in the ocular disease and nonocular disease groups (P = 0.265). There was no significant difference in the proportion of blue- and brown-eyed horses when comparing the adnexal and corneal (P = 0.548), corneal and intraocular/orbit (P = 0.379) and adnexal and intraocular/orbit (P = 0.843) categories. A significant difference was detected in the proportion of blue-eyed horses between the adnexal (P = 0.000), corneal (P = 0.033), intraocular/orbital (P = 0.000) and SCC categories, with a higher proportion of blue-eyed horses in the SCC than in the other 3 groups. Horses with blue or heterochromic irides are more likely to develop ocular SCC than horses with brown irides, but are not more likely to have adnexal, corneal or intraocular/orbital disease or to be presented for evaluation of ophthalmic disease. Veterinarians should consider the results of this study when answering questions from the lay public regarding the predisposition of blue-eyed horses to ocular disease.