Eye Disorders in a German Shepherd By Wildwater Wolf


German Shepherds are susceptible to eye disorders, as well as diseases of the eyeball and the eyelid, cancers, cataracts and eye-related allergies. While most general practice veterinarians are qualified to treat dogs with eye diseases, veterinary ophthalmology specialists are the best doctors to consult when dealing with serious eye disorders in dogs.

Pannus
The most common eye disorder in German Shepherds is pannus, sometimes called German Shepherd dog keratitis. Pannus is a chronic inflammation of the corneal surface and, in most cases, of the conjunctiva, a thin membrane that covers the inner surface of the eyelid and the white part of the eyeball. The disease primarily occurs in German Shepherds, beginning when dogs are between 3 and 5 years old. The inflammation appears in the outer edges of the cornea and often affects both eyes simultaneously. Without treatment, the inflammation may progress, cover the entire cornea and lead to blindness.

Causes of Pannus
Pannus is an autoimmune condition, in which the immune system produces antibodies against its own tissues. German Shepherds have a breed-dependent inherited predisposition to this disease, and an increased incidence of pannus during sunny months has been ascribed to their sensitivity to the ultraviolet rays in sunlight that seem to trigger the disease.

Treatment of Pannus
As of 2010, there is no cure for pannus. The treatment goal is to control the active phase of the disorder as quickly as possible, to avoid further outbreaks and to minimize the serious consequences of the disease. Veterinarians use cortisone therapy to treat pannus, first with injections and then with owners at home with frequent applications of cortisone ointment. Owners eventually will apply a daily maintenance dose over the dog's lifetime. An alternative treatment is long-term application of a topical ointment containing cyclosporine.

Pannus can decrease a dog's vision if left untreated and a thick mucous discharge often accompanies the eye redness. Treatment of pannus also includes tear stimulants and, according to the Dog Cataracts website, "Newer technologies that treat eye infections in dogs include a bioadhesive ophthalmic drug insert which can be placed in the eye to avoid the daily treatment and make compliance with treatment easier."

German Shepherd owners should consult with their veterinarians regularly about ongoing treatment and protect their dog's eyes from ultraviolet light, especially direct sun exposure.

Disease of the Eyeball
An epibulbar dermoid is a congenital condition found in German Shepherds. It usually affects one eye and appears as a fleshy, hairy, pigmented area on the eyeball, most often on the cornea.

Diseases of the Eyelid
Eversion of the third eyelid cartilage is a condition in which the cartilage of the third eyelid rolls outwards or inwards like a scroll. The condition may cause one or both eyes to weep, if tears cannot drain properly. If left untreated, discomfort due to the eyelid rubbing on the surface of the cornea can lead to the development of a corneal ulcer. Treatment for this involves surgical removal of the affected piece of cartilage.

Plasma cell infiltration of the third eyelid with loss of the normal black pigmentation along the edge of the eyelid is another eye disorder that occurs in German Shepherds.

Melanomas
The German Shepherd breed is predisposed to eye melanomas, including anterior uveal melanoma of the iris or ciliary body, and limbal melanoma, ocular tumors that occur most frequently in 5 to 6 year old female German Shepherds. According to DogTime, the National Canine Cancer Foundation reports, "These lesions have so far proved to be benign in nature but quick medical intervention is important."

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