Pannus in Dogs

Pannus is a condition affecting the eyes of the dogs (the corneal and conjunctiva tissues); the condition is also known as superficial keratitis. Pannus is a condition that will typically affect both eyes and may progress causing blindness.

Affected Breeds

Pannus or superficial keratitis is a condition that mostly affects certain breeds of dogs including the Belgian Tervuren, German Shepherd, Border Collie or Siberian Husky.

Middle aged and senior dogs are more susceptible to developing pannus.

Causes of Pannus

The causes that lead to pannus are not fully known. Given that the condition only affects certain breeds, pannus is often considered a hereditary disease.

Pannus has also been linked to a deficiency of the immune system; it is believed that the immune system may attack the tissues in the cornea and conjunctiva.

Dogs that spend more time in direct sunlight may also be more prone to developing the disease.

Also, dogs that live at higher altitudes are more susceptible to superficial keratitis.

Symptoms of Pannus

Pannus will manifest through opaque lesions that can be visible in the cornea. The dog will not be in pain. If the dog shows he is in pain (scratches or paws the eye area) he may be affected by a different disease (i.e. corneal ulcer or conjunctivitis).

The lesions may develop and affect greater parts of the eyes.

Typically, the ulcers will affect both eyes, but the lesions will not be symmetrical.

Diagnosing Pannus

Pannus may be diagnosed by checking the eyes of the dog. The vet should rule out other possible eye diseases that manifest through lesions (i.e. corneal ulcer).

Pannus Treatment

There is no known treatment for pannus. The condition may be managed by preventing the lesions from developing. Anti inflammatory drugs may be prescribed along with eye drops that contain anti inflammatory medication; the eye drops should be administered twice per day.

The eye drops may contain Cyclosporine, Optimune, corticosteroids such as Prednisolone or Dexamethasone. Following a few weeks of treatment, the lesions may disappear. However, the treatment shouldn’t be discontinued, as the lesions are most likely to return. Consequently, the eye drops should be administered for life.

Dogs affected by pannus should avoid direct exposure to sunlight and spend most of their time indoors.  

If left untreated, the condition may evolve; the lesions can develop and affect greater parts of the eye, impairing vision.

Pannus Prevention

If the theory that pannus is a hereditary condition is correct, the disease cannot be prevented.

However, it has been proven that extended exposure to sunlight can play an important role in triggering the disease. Dog breeds that are prone to superficial keratitis that are also exposed to sunlight should wear special goggles that are meant to protect their eyes. Dogs may be reluctant and may not like the goggles, but they may get used to wearing them. The goggles should also be worn by dogs that have already been diagnosed with pannus.