Pannus (Superficial Keratitis) in Dogs
Pannus, also called chronic superficial keratitis, typically affects both eyes. It causes pink plaques or red vessels, that are often raised, to develop on the eye. It also causes darker pigmentation on the cornea, white or grey haziness to part of the eye, and the third eyelid may be affected too. The third eyelid may become rough, with red and white discoloration lesions. As the condition progresses, the pigment changes to the eye can get so severe it can cause blindness! Continue reading to learn more about this disease, dogs that are at higher risk for developing pannus, testing, and treatment options.
What dogs are at risk for developing pannus?
Pannus is thought to be an auto-immune condition and is more common in German Shepherds and Greyhounds. It is believed to be an inheritable condition since certain breeds are more commonly diagnosed with pannus. UV light exposure makes the pannus worse, so dogs that live in the Southern US and mountain regions are at higher risk.
Dogs are typically middle age to older (5 to 8 years of age) at the time of diagnosis.
Breeds most commonly diagnosed with pannus include:
- German Shepherds
- Australian Shepherd
- Belgian Tervuren
- Belgian Shepherd
- Border Collie
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Siberian Husky
- Mix breeds can also be affected.
What tests may my vet recommend to diagnose pannus?
Your vet will likely recommend a Schirmer tear test to assess the tear production, fluorescein eye stain to ensure there is no scratch or ulcer present, and may also recommend an intraocular pressure test to be sure glaucoma is not present.
There is no specific test for pannus. If the above-listed tests are normal and the changes to the eyes are consistent with pannus, treatment will likely be started.
How can my dog be treated for pannus?
Topical steroids or immunosuppressive eye drops are the most common treatment. Some dogs need 2 types of eye medications to get relief. These are long-term medications and your vet will recommend rechecks every few months to assess response to treatment and help formulate a plan for finding the lowest effective dose of medications to keep the eyes healthy.
Occasionally, steroid injections below the conjunctival tissue are needed to reduce inflammation.
Veterinary ophthalmologists can implant a long-acting immunosuppressive medication like cyclosporine that needs to be repeated every 8 to 12 months.
Cryotherapy and radiotherapy are additional treatments if the more common treatments are not working for your dog.
UV protective doggy goggles can be worn to reduce further UV exposure. Keeping dogs indoors and out of the sun as much as possible can help limit symptoms of pannus.