The Animal Health Trust (AHT) in Newmarket has launched a fund-raising appeal to pay for new technology that cures the most common form of blindness in horses.

The AHT is the only place in the UK to have a phaco-emulsification machine, which can cure equine recurrent uveitis (ERU).

ERU is a painful inflammation of the inside of the eye, said Neal Ashton, senior surgeon at Oakham Veterinary Hospital in Rutland.

“In humans, treatment is a standard procedure, but we do not have a simple treatment for horses. This sounds like a move in the right direction,” he said.

The machine performs vitrectomy — surgery to remove clouded fluid from inside the eye.

AHT staff have already used the machine to restore the sight of rescued moon bears in China and a lioness in Romania.

AHT opthalmologist Claudia Hartley said: “It really will revolutionise the way we treat eye disease in larger animals.

“Having it at the AHT means we can save the sight of many animals which would have gone blind permanently.”

The machine has been given to the AHT by German company Acrivet, but has yet to be paid for.

Now the AHT has launched the Sight for Sore Eyes campaign and is seeking donations in order to pay the £35,000 needed to secure the equipment permanently.

The cost to a horse owner of an average eye operation using the phaco-emulsification machine is around £3,500 and takes about two hours.

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This article was first published in Horse & Hound (13 August, ’09)