News & Advice

Ali Cullum, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Morrinsville

What is cancer eye?

This is a malignant growth involving all or part of the eye, eyeball or surrounding tissues. If we look at it under the microscope (histopathology), then it is usually a squamous cell carcinoma, so an out of control growth of the keratin forming cells (keratin is the protein making the outer layer of hair, skin, eyes etc). Cancer eye may be seen as a swollen eye, a lump on the eyelid in the corner of the eye (third eyelid) or on the surface (cornea) of the eye. Cancer eye is painful for the cow and is therefore a welfare concern. It is important to intercept them early or the cow will be suffering.

What can you do about cancer eye?

If the lesion is just a small one on the cornea or third eyelid, it may be possible to have a quick surgery to remove the eyelid or to freeze the lesion from the cornea. If it involves the whole eyeball or membranes around the eye, it is possible to remove the eyeball and surrounding tissues. The vet will want to check there is no sign of the cancer moving into the main part of the head or draining lymph nodes first. Cows usually do well with only one eye. If you decide to cull the cow you need to be sure she is fit for transport. If the eye is constantly weeping, swollen or has pus discharge it may not be fit for transport and she may need to be culled for petfood. Check with your veterinarian and they will advise if the cow can be certificated for transport or not. From a cow perspective, the sooner the eye is looked at the better, and the more likely the surgery will be a success.






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