Keratitis is inflammation of the cornea. It may be acute or chronic, superficial or deep. Superficial keratitis is fairly common in dogs and may develop at any age. Prognosis is usually good with treatment. Untreated, recurrent keratitis may lead to blindness. Chronic superficial keratitis is also called pannus. Keratitis usually results from infection, exposure due the animal's inability to close its eyelids, or from a congenital disorder. The disease is characterized by opacities of the cornea, mild irritation, excessive tearing and high sensitivity to light. Treatment of acute keratitis due to an infection may require broad-spectrum antibiotics. Keratitis due to exposure requires application of moisturizing ointment and of a plastic bubble eye shield or eye patch. Treatment for severe corneal scarring may include cornea transplantation (keratoplasty).
Keratitis sicca (dry eye syndrome is associated with hereditary impaired tear secretion and inflammation of the cornea. A few simple tests will help your veterinarian diagnose keratitis sicca. Treatment usually includes artificial tears, antibiotics or steroids to combat inflammation. The tear ducts may be flushed periodically, and sometimes surgery is required to eliminate specific causes of keratitis sicca.2
Common Corneal Diseases
German Shepherd Dog keratitis is a chronic, superficial, spreading keratitis that is activated by UV light. The abnormalities which usually affect both eyes often start on the side, where the cornea is most exposed to light. If left untreated, keratitis covers both corneas within one year. The abnormality often occurs in a less severe form in long-haired Dachshunds. There is almost certainly a hereditary predisposition in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel.4 Very infrequently, a similar picture is seen in the Cairn Terrier and Collie.1
Superficial punctate keratitis involves corneal epithelium that results in small superficial opacities. Although superficial punctate keratitis may not always require treatment, topical corticosteroids will alleviate discomfort and result in healing punctate ulcers marked with elevated or colored dots or punctures.3
Dachshund keratitis is an aggressive chronic corneal disease which is associated with the formation of infiltrations and excessive growth of blood vessels in the cornea. It is thought to be an immune-mediated condition. With topical treatment, multiple corneal ulcers will heal rapidly. In chronic cases, progressive pigmentation may result in multiple opacities.3
- Ophthalmology for the veterinary practitioner. Frans C. Stades, Milton Wyman, Michael H. Boevé, Willy Neumann, Bernhard Spiess
- Small Dog Breeds. Dan Rice
- Geriatrics and gerontology of the dog and cat. Johnny D. Hoskins
- Prevalence of disorders recorded in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels attending primary-care veterinary practices in England. Jennifer F Summers, Dan G O’Neill, David B Church, Peter C Thomson, Paul D McGreevy and David C Brodbelt. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology20152:4 DOI: 10.1186/s40575-015-0016-7
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