What’s That Red Spot? Understanding Pannus in Dogs

Pannus is a common eye disease that affects dogs, causing inflammation and potential vision impairment. While it predominantly occurs in certain breeds, such as German Shepherds and Greyhounds, it can affect any dog, regardless of breed or age. In this article, we’ll delve into the signs, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of pannus.

Recognizing the Signs of Pannus

Pannus primarily affects the cornea, the transparent outer layer of the eye, as well as the third eyelid. The condition manifests as cloudiness, reddening due to blood vessel growth, and the development of dark-colored pigment in both eyes. The color changes typically start at the outer edge and gradually move toward the center. Left untreated, inflammation caused by pannus can lead to blindness. There is also a variant called atypical pannus, which can cause inflammation in the third eyelid, resulting in redness, thickening, and a mottled appearance.

Unraveling the Causes of Pannus

Although the exact cause of pannus remains unknown, it is believed to be an autoimmune disease, wherein the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy eye tissues. Unlike other autoimmune diseases that affect multiple body systems, pannus specifically targets the eyes. Genetic factors likely play a role, given the breed predispositions observed. Additionally, exposure to UV light can trigger or worsen the condition. Dogs residing at higher altitudes with increased UV exposure often experience more severe symptoms, and some dogs may have seasonal flare-ups when they spend more time in the sun.

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Diagnosing Pannus in Dogs

Veterinary ophthalmologists can diagnose pannus based on the characteristic appearance observed during a routine eye examination. Simple tests, such as measuring eye pressure and tear production, help rule out other conditions and ensure the overall eye health of the affected dog. Inflammation caused by pannus is limited to the surface of the eye and does not affect the inner eye. However, further testing may be recommended if inflammation is detected within the eye.

Treating Pannus in Dogs

Treatment for pannus begins aggressively to gain control over the condition, prevent its progression, and reduce corneal inflammation. With successful treatment, pets may require fewer medications and experience longer periods of remission. While pannus cannot be cured, lifelong treatment is necessary to manage the disease effectively. Treatment typically involves the use of topical eye drops or ointments containing an immunomodulator, such as tacrolimus or cyclosporine, along with a steroid like dexamethasone.

Reducing exposure to UV light is also crucial for pannus management. This may involve limiting outdoor activities during peak UV times or opting for walks during dawn or dusk. However, for high-energy or working breeds who require extensive outdoor time, UV-protecting goggles, such as Rex Specs and Doggles, can protect their eyes while making a stylish statement.

The Long-Term Outlook for Pannus

Pannus can vary in severity and typically progresses over time. Early treatment and medication adherence can lead to positive outcomes. Some pets may still experience occasional flare-ups, even with consistent medication use, while others may only experience flare-ups if their medication is discontinued. As pannus is a chronic condition requiring lifelong treatment, regular monitoring by a veterinary ophthalmologist is necessary, usually once or twice a year. Most treated pets maintain good vision throughout their lives. However, in severe cases, surgery to remove vision-impairing scarring and pigment in the cornea’s top layer may be considered as a last resort. Unfortunately, scarring and pigment tend to recur following surgery.

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Pannus poses a threat to your dog’s eye health and vision. Early recognition and proper treatment are essential for a positive outcome. If you suspect your pet may have pannus or notice any changes in their eyes or vision, schedule a consultation with the Veterinary Vision Center’s experienced team. Visit Katten TrimSalon for more information about caring for your furry friend’s well-being.