Effects of eye patches on corneal ulcer healing and weight gain in stocker steers on pasture: A randomized controlled trial

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Infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis (IBK) is a painful ocular disease in cattle that is characterized by the presence of a corneal ulcer and production losses. A common industry practice is to cover an affected eye with a piece of cloth to reduce exposure to face flies and ultraviolet light with the goal of alleviating pain, accelerating healing, and reducing spread. To study the efficacy of eye patches in the treatment of IBK, a group of 216 clinically normal Angus crossbred steers were followed between April and August 2019 and evaluated weekly for the development of IBK. Eyes of cattle that developed IBK were enrolled with a blocked randomization scheme based on ulcer severity score to receive either an eye patch (treatment group) or no eye patch (control group). All treatment and control group animals received parenteral antimicrobial and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory treatments and were housed in a pasture separated from the rest of the cohort for a maximum of 28 d or until clinical cure. Corneal ulcer areas were measured, and body weights were recorded twice weekly for steers in the treatment and control groups. Weights of all steers in the cohort were recorded three times during the trial period. The primary outcome, rate of corneal ulcer healing, was higher (P = 0.001) for lesions in eyes receiving an eye patch as determined by a linear mixed model that controlled for ulcer severity score at enrollment and previous IBK in the opposite eye. Median corneal ulcer healing time was 10 (IQR [Interquartile range] 7-17) d for patched eyes vs. 14 (IQR 7-21) d for unpatched eyes. In a Cox proportional hazards model adjusted for severity score at diagnosis, the hazard ratio for ulcer healing was 1.62 (95% CI: 1.02-2.56, P = 0.042) for eyes that received a patch compared to eyes that did not. Among all 216 steers in the cohort, those that were diagnosed with IBK had a numerically higher average daily gain (ADG) (0.45 [±SE 0.01] kg) vs. those that were not (0.42 [±SE 0.12] kg; P = 0.06). In enrolled steers that received a patch, the secondary outcome ADG was 0.47 (±SE 0.02) kg compared to 0.43 (±SE 0.02) kg in controls (P = 0.22). Weight gain may have been confounded by pasture during the treatment period. Results of this trial support the use of this low-cost intervention; further investigation into possible reasons for observed differences in weight gain may be warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalTranslational Animal Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021


  • cattle
  • corneal ulcer
  • eye patch
  • infectious bovine keratoconjunctivitis
  • pinkeye
  • weight gain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)


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