Chronic Superficial Keratitis (Pannus)

Chronic Superficial Keratitis (Pannus)

Health & Safety

Chronic Superficial Keratitis or Pannus, is a health disorder that affects certain breeds more than others with the German Shepherd being one of the dogs most affected by the disease. With this said, other breeds like the Airedale Terrier and Greyhound are also known to suffer from it too.

The disorder affects a dog's cornea which sees a progressive change as blood vessels and scar tissue forms on the surface of the cornea causing all the damage. The eye becomes opaque and looks very much like a dog might be developing cataracts. At first it's just the outer or lower part of the cornea that's impacted, but if the condition is more severe, it can affect the majority of a cornea's surface which typically results in blindness in an affected eye.

An Immune Mediated Eye Disorder

There is some belief that Chronic Superficial Keratitis could be an immune mediated eye disorders because as changes occur in a dog's cornea, the immune system kicks in which sees it attacking the affected cornea which in short means a dog's immune system sees the change as a being foreign body that’s causing all the problems. German Shepherds are believed to be genetically predisposed to suffering from the condition, although damage to a dog's cornea, which is the trigger, could be caused by ultraviolet radiation too and therefore other breeds could be susceptible to suffering from the condition as well.

Research has shown that dogs living at higher altitudes are more prone to suffering from Pannus which supports the theory that ultra violet radiation could be the cause of the problem. It has also established that treating dogs living in higher altitudes is that much harder too.

Breeds Most Affected

As previously mentioned, there are certain breeds that appear to be more predisposed to suffering from Chronic Superficial Keratitis than others. Some of the breeds that seem to be prone to the condition include the following:

  • German Shepherd
  • Airedale Terrier
  • Greyhound
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Siberian Husky
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Border Collie


The exact reason why some breeds develop Pannus remains unknown, but there could be several factors that could contribute to them suffering from Pannus which includes the following:

  • A genetic predispositon - certain breeds being most affected
  • Ultraviolet radiation - dogs living at higher altitudes
  • Immunological factors - autoimmune disorder

Signs to Watch Out For

The first sign that there might be a problem is when a normally clear cornea turns opaque or when there is a noticeable brown or pink discolouration in a dog’s cornea. As previously mentioned, the first part of a cornea to be affected is typically the outside edge, but over time, the damage gets gradually worse as it spreads across an affected eye covering the whole surface of a dog's cornea. If left untreated, a dog would eventually lose all sight in an affected eye which is why it's so important for them to be thoroughly examined by a vet as soon as the problem is first noticed.

Diagnosing Pannus

A vet would need to thoroughly examine a dog's eyes to establish whether they are suffering from Chronic Superficial Keratitis. However, they may need to carry out further tests which could include doing bloodwork to confirm a diagnosis.

Treating Pannus

The condition cannot be cured, but it can be managed and a vet would typically want to treat the condition by prescribing specific drugs to suppress a dog's immune reaction to the damage being caused to their corneas. With the advancement of veterinary medicine and drugs that are now available, vets have a much better choice when it comes to selecting the best sort of medication needed to manage a dog suffering from Pannus. With the right sort of treatment, a vet might be able to help resolve any abnormal pigmentation or scarring from forming, but this is not always the case as sometimes it is impossible to prevent the progression of this eye disorder, no matter how hard they try.

A dog suffering from Pannus would need to have ongoing treatment as a way of controlling and managing their condition. Their treatment should never be stopped even for a short period of time because the damage caused to a dog's cornea would come back with a vengeance and could result in impairing their vision to such an extent there would be no turning back.

Most Common Treatments

Vets generally have three types of treatments which they could recommend when treating a dog suffering from Pannus which are as follows:

  • Corticosteroid therapy combined with eye drops or certain ointments
  • Topical immunomodulatory therapy
  • Surgical intervention can be considered, but only if a dog has not responded to any topical treatments. The downside to this is the prognosis is never that good because the damage to a dog's cornea typically reoccurs further down the line

Living with a Dog Suffering from Pannus

When a dog is diagnosed as suffering from Chronic Superficial Keratitis, it is really important for them to be regularly examined by a vet so their condition can be reassessed on an ongoing basis. Frequent visits to the vet would also help reduce the risks of any complications developing which can make the condition that much harder to treat and manage. Should a dog lose their sight in one or both eyes, it’s really important for them to live in a safe and familiar environment.

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