Veterinary Handbook Disease Finder

Eye Foreign Body


Other Names

  • Ocular Foreign Body



Ocular foreign bodies (grass seeds, feed material, bedding material, dust) may enter and irritate the eye, predisposing to inflammation and infection. Risk factors in the live export process include:

  • feeding unrolled round bales in assembly depots where cattle push their heads into the bale.
  • feeding chaff or spreading fluffy sawdust in windy conditions where it remains airborne for longer than normal.
  • high-pressure hosing of decks with the consequent risk of splashing airborne particulate matter into the eye.

Clinical Signs and Diagnosis

Affected eyes may be partially or wholly closed or weeping. A foreign body in the eye is usually located in the lower conjunctival recess and rarely in the upper recess. A proper examination requires good physical restraint aided by sedation, topical anaesthetic, and a light source (head lamp). Differential diagnoses include pinkeye and infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR).


Foreign bodies may be removed with forceps during the examination process, using appropriate restraint, sedation, and topical anaesthesia as required.

Topical antibiotics in the form of spray or ointment can be applied to the eye. However, parenteral administration of antibiotics (procaine penicillin, oxytetracycline, erythromycin, trimethoprim sulpha, or tylosin) will be easier, more effective and longer lasting.

Avoid applying antibiotic powders to the eye as they are irritating and may worsen the problem.


  • Unroll round bales for feeding.
  • When feeding chaff or spreading sawdust, aim to minimise the risk of it becoming airborne in the vicinity of cattle.
  • Use large volume, low pressure hosing of cattle decks to avoid splashing manure or other matter into eyes.