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German Shepherd Eye Problems | Pannus | Cataracts | Chronic Superficial Keratitis | Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Chronic Superficial Keratitis, another disease that is particularly common in German Shepherd dogs, (also called pannus), is an ocular disease that, if left untreated, eventually leads to blindness. It manifests itself as a gradual inflammation of the corneal region. A dog suffering from pannus will eventually develop a pink, veiny membrane over the afflicted eye or eye; with time, the membrane will darken in hue and become completely black, spreading from a single corner of the eye across the entire eyeball. In many cases, pannus is caused by an immune system deficiency; however, it can also be caused by extensive dryness of the eye or by ocular damage. High altitudes and ultraviolet radiation exposure have also been linked to the onset of pannus in some dogs. While the condition is not painful, it can cause blindness without the proper treatment.

Pannus often begins relatively innocuously as the conjunctiva, a collection of pink tissue that surround the eyeball, becomes inflamed. Eventually, this inflammation spreads, extending onto the eye with a membrane composed of a combination of scar tissue, red blood vessels, and brown pigment, as well as cholesterol and/or calcium crystals. Over time, this membrane will expand and darken. If you notice the development of this sort of cataract in your dog’s eyeball, it is important to seek treatment when possible before blindness or inflection sets in.

Luckily, treatment for dogs suffering from pannus cataracts is relatively straightforward. Anti-inflammatory medicine must be administered – often consisting of a cocktail of steroids and cyclosporine. These serve to suppress the localized action of the immune system in the ocular region, minimizing inflammatory tendencies. These drugs must be used for the remainder of the dog’s life; however, side effects are rare, making it a relatively simple – if potentially pricey – course of treatment. Limiting exposure to sunlight – for example, with the use of protective visors – may also help to limit the progression of the disease. Cortisone eye drops may also be used to destroy existing inflammations.

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