Uveitis in Dogs
Uveitis is inflammation inside the eye, or of one or more of the structures making up the uvea. The uvea is the part of the eye made up of the iris (the thin, circular structure in the eye that gives the eye its color and controls the size of the pupil), the ciliary body (part of the wall of the eye that makes the fluid that fills the eye) and the choroid (middle layer of the eye). Continue reading to learn about the common causes, symptoms, and treatment options for dogs with uveitis.
Causes of Uveitis in Dogs
Anterior uveitis refers to inflammation in the anterior segment of the eye affecting the iris and ciliary body, while inflammation of the choroid is called posterior uveitis. If all three structures are involved, the inflammation is called true uveitis or pan-uveitis.
Common causes of uveitis are:
- Infections; including viral (rabies, distemper), bacterial (Lyme disease, leptospirosis), parasitic (toxoplasmosis, ehrlichiosis), or fungal (blastomycosis, histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis, coccidioidomycosis)
- Metabolic disease (such as diabetes)
- High blood pressure
- Toxins (typically chemicals or irritants getting onto the eye)
- Immune-mediated; particularly autoimmune disease where the dog produces antibodies against its own tissues
- Trauma to the eye
- Lens damage resulting in the leakage of lens protein
- Eye tumors
If no underlying cause is uncovered as a part of the comprehensive diagnostic evaluation, your dog’s uveitis may be considered immune-mediated or idiopathic (no obvious underlying cause).
Clinical Signs/Symptoms of Uveitis in Dogs
Signs of uveitis can be subtle and include squinting, rubbing at the eyes, and mild tearing; or they can be severe with redness, hazy, or cloudy appearance to the eyes, and decreased vision. Some patients have mild uveitis with normal vision and mild discomfort while others have severe and painful uveitis.
How is the condition diagnosed?
Many of the signs of uveitis are similar to glaucoma. With uveitis, intraocular pressure (IOP) is reduced (low) whereas with glaucoma it is elevated (high). Measurement of IOP is often performed to differentiate between the two conditions and is a simple, painless procedure.
Special diagnostic procedures such as ultrasound may be used to examine the eye. Other tests may be done to help rule out systemic illnesses including blood tests, urinalysis, or radiographs (x-rays). For infectious causes, it may be necessary to perform specialized blood tests or take tissue samples for diagnostic testing.
Treatment Options for Dogs with Uveitis
Immediate priorities are to relieve pain, prevent glaucoma, maintain the normal internal structure of the eye, and preserve vision.
Treatment for uveitis includes topical and systemic anti-inflammatory medication in addition to the treatment of any underlying disease process. Therapy is often required for weeks or months. Occasionally, treatment is lifelong.
Prognosis for Dogs with Uveitis
Prognosis is good to guarded, depending on the underlying cause, severity, extent of damage caused by the inflammation, duration of inflammation, response to therapy, and development of negative aftereffects. The best outcome occurs when uveitis is diagnosed early, treated promptly and aggressively, and the underlying cause is responsive to therapy. When treated properly, most cases of uveitis begin to improve within twenty-four hours. Frequent rechecks are recommended until the inflammation is under control.
Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your dog’s eye problem or another condition?
Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.