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Pannus in Dogs (Chronic Superficial Keratitis)

Canine pannus is an eye disease that affects the third eyelid and cornea of a dog's eyes. It can eventually lead to blindness if left untreated. Here, our South Florida vets list causes, signs, and treatment options for dogs suffering from pannus.

How Pannus Affects a Dog's Eyes

Pannus (also referred to as chronic superficial keratitis) is a condition that involves the cornea and third eyelid of a dog's eyes. This eye disease causes a grayish-pink film to cover the eye and the cornea may become opaque as the disease progresses. It typically affects both eyes. 

While it's possible for chronic superficial keratitis to be present in only one eye, it most commonly affects both eyes. 

Causes of Pannus in Dogs

A precise cause of pannus hasn't been identified. However, it is thought to be primarily a hereditary condition that appears as a dog ages. Pannus is thought to be hereditary because it's typically found only in certain dog breeds, though it can appear in any breed. 

Even though pannus is not completely understood and many are uncertain of the causes, we do know that some factors can contribute to the development of the disease. These factors include: 

  • Exposure to airborne irritants 
  • High altitudes 
  • A large amount of sunlight exposure 
  • Entropion (eyelids rolled inward)
  • Immune-mediated inflammation
  • Underlying eye conditions 

Dog Breeds Susceptible to Pannus 

Middle-aged dogs (5-8 years old) are the age range most likely to develop pannus. Though any dog can develop this condition, it is most often diagnosed in the following dog breeds:

  • German shepherds (make up 90% of cases)
  • Belgian tervurens
  • Border collies
  • Greyhounds
  • Rhodesian ridgebacks
  • Siberian huskies

While these breeds are more likely to develop this condition, it's important to keep in mind that any dog can develop pannus. Also, you'll want to keep a close eye on your dog if they are mixed with any of these breeds to check whether they are showing signs of symptoms of the disease. 

Pannus in Dogs: Which Symptoms to Watch For

The first symptoms of this eye condition to appear are non-painful, raised lesions on the cornea. Though they will typically be a red or pink color, they may also come in brown or gray. These lesions are most often seen on the outer side of the eye. You may also see the third eyelid become thick and inflamed. While both eyes are typically affected, one may appear worse than the other. 

Other symptoms of pannus in dogs to be aware of can include:

  • Cornea pigmentation
  • Cornea opacity 
  • A grayish-pink film on the eye(s)
  • Tearing and redness 

If your dog is displaying any of the symptoms above, it's best to err on the side of caution and consult a veterinary ophthalmologist.

Treatment for Pannus in Dogs

Unfortunately, pannus does not have a cure, and treatment will last for the rest of your pet's life. On the bright side, most dogs respond quite well to treatment with close monitoring from a veterinarian and diligent at-home care by the animal's owner.

Treatment will likely include topical corticosteroids in addition to other eye medications. In extreme cases, surgery or radiation therapy may be used to the point where more traditional methods will suffice.

Dogs with pannus will require ongoing, lifelong medication to prevent lesions on the cornea from returning. Regular eye exams are key in identifying any reoccurring flare-ups once the pannus is under control.

It is crucial that you follow your vet's directions carefully, and administer medications consistently as instructed. Regular check-ups and attentiveness are essential due to the likelihood of the condition relapsing throughout your dog's life.

The Prognosis for Canine Pannus

For dogs residing in regions with lower UV radiation exposure, topical treatment is often very effective in controlling pannus. However, treating patients living in areas with more intense UV light may be a more difficult task.

It is extremely important to remember to follow medication instructions carefully. Failure to follow instructions in detail can cause the condition to worsen over time.

Where Should I Go If I Think My Dog May Be Having Problems With Their Eyesight? 

Dogs sometimes develop minor or severe eye conditions or infections that can affect how your pup sees and cause pain or discomfort. While some conditions are related to age, others are diseases or injuries. 

Regardless of the problem, any suspected loss of sight or discomfort in either eye should be promptly assessed by a veterinarian or veterinary ophthalmologist. Early diagnosis and treatment play an integral role in positive outcomes for your dog's health. 

Animal Eye Guys's board-certified ophthalmologists work with your pet's primary care veterinarian to provide the most comprehensive and compassionate eye care possible. We're able to diagnose and treat virtually any eye condition or disease, including dry eye, infections, tumors, and more. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog exhibiting signs of pannus? Contact our South Florida veterinary ophthalmologists to book an examination today.

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