Dogs with keratitis suffer from inflammation of the cornea, the eye's transparent front layer, but the condition comes in several forms. While they differ from each other somewhat, all can lead to partial or total vision loss. If your dog shows any signs of eye problems, take him to the vet immediately. Prompt treatment might save your dog's eyesight.
A cloudy eye is the most obvious symptom of canine keratitis. Squinting, excessive tearing, light avoidance, eye pawing, redness and the appearance of the canine "third eyelid" indicate some form of the disease. Your vet diagnoses the form of the keratitis by putting a special dye in the eye. If the cornea is ulcerated, the dye collects in the lesion, causing a short-term stain visible under ultraviolet light. If the keratitis is non-ulcerative, the cornea is not stained.
Canine Bacterial Keratitis
Usually, minor corneal abrasions heal on their own. You might not notice a problem with your dog's eye at all. However, corneal ulcers often result from bacterial infection in that minor injury. According to the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island, the most common organisms found in canine bacterial keratitis cases are Staphylococcus intermedius, beta-hemolytic Streptococcus, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Your vet might prescribe a combination of topical antibiotics to treat the infection. If the dog suffers from decreased tear production, bacteria can gain an easier foothold. Such dogs might require referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist and hospitalization for treatment and monitoring.
Superficial keratitis generally involves both eyes, with whitish-pink lesions developing on the lower area of the cornea. The third eyelid might thicken or change color. The eye's edges might contain fatty deposits. Untreated, blindness can occur. Pannus, also known as Uberreiter's disease, is a form of chronic superficial keratitis that appears to be an immune-related, hereditary disease in some dogs. This progressive disease eventually covers the cornea, but the condition can be managed with various medications, often required for the life of the affected dog.
While any dog might develop pannus, it occurs more often in certain breeds. These include the German shepherd, English pointer, Belgian Tervuren, greyhound, Dalmatian, dachshund, border collie, Siberian husky, Belgian sheepdog and Australian shepherd. Short-nosed brachycephalic breeds, such as bulldogs, pugs and Boston terriers, are more prone to canine bacterial keratitis. That's because of a common inability to completely close their eyes -- a condition known as lagophthalmos -- and decreased tear production.
By Jane Meggitt
About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.