Anterior Uveitis in Dogs

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Overview of Canine Anterior Uveitis

Anterior uveitis, commonly referred to as just “uveitis”, is inflammation that affects the front or anterior part of the eye called the uvea, which is the dark tissue of the eye that contains blood vessels that can occur in dogs. The iris – the tissue that makes up the pupil – is typically involved. The posterior part of the eye may or may not be affected.

The causes of anterior uveitis include:

  • Immune-mediated conditions, in which the body attacks its own tissues
  • Infections from viruses, parasites, fungi, bacteria, rickettsia
  • Tumors or cancers
  • Trauma or injury to the eye
  • Metabolic disease elsewhere in the body that is affecting the eye
  • Idiopathic, which means the cause is unknown
  • Lens-induced, which is caused by the escape of lens protein into the eye fluid and is most frequently associated with cataracts

    Older animals are more likely to have tumors, and indoor/outdoor pets are more likely to be exposed to infectious causes than pets housed strictly indoors. Also, in certain regions of the world specific infectious diseases are more common. Certain breeds of dogs are more likely to have immune-mediated anterior uveitis.

    Anterior uveitis can be painful for your pet and may threaten vision. Just as important, this problem can also be a sign of a disease that is affecting the rest of the your dog’s body.

    What to Watch For

  • Redness
  • Tearing
  • Squinting, especially in bright light
  • A small or unevenly shaped pupil
  • A cloudy or dull appearance in the front of the eye
  • An unevenly colored iris – a normal brown iris may be very red, darker brown than normal or have fluffy yellow/white areas
  • Diagnosis of Anterior Uveitis in Dogs

    Diagnostic tests are needed to recognize anterior uveitis and exclude other diseases. Immune-mediated diseases may be difficult to diagnosis if they are confined only to the eye. All other causes of uveitis must often be excluded first. Tests may include:

  • Complete medical history and physical examination
  • A complete examination of the eye with an ophthalmoscope, including the external portion, the front segment of the inside of the eye, and the back part of the eye
  • Tonometry to measure the pressure within the eye
  • General blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC) and serum biochemical profile
  • Specific blood tests for immune diseases, infectious agents or other systemic diseases
  • Ultrasound, X-rays or aspirates, which are samples of fluid taken from inside the eye via a small needle
  • Treatment of Dogs with Anterior Uveitis

    Treatments for anterior uveitis may include symptomatic, specific therapy and/or surgical intervention:

  • Symptomatic therapy, regardless of the cause of the anterior uveitis, is usually indicated. Topical treatments, like drops or ointments placed on the eye and medications taken by mouth, are designed to reduce pain and inflammation – like treating a headache with aspirin regardless of what is causing the headache.
  • Specific therapy is directed if a cause for the anterior uveitis has been determined. Appropriate topical and/or oral drugs are prescribed and may include an antibiotic, an anti-fungal drug, or a drug that reduces immune-mediated inflammation.
  • Surgical intervention. In situations where a tumor or secondary complications (such as glaucoma) are present and cannot be controlled with medications, it may be necessary to remove the eye surgically.
  • Home Care and Prevention

    It is important that you follow your veterinarian’s instructions and learn to medicate your dog properly. It is not always easy to put medications into an animal’s eye, but it is imperative that the medications be given.

    Examine your dog’s eyes every day and look for subtle changes. See your veterinarian for follow-up appointments to re-examine eye.

    You have some control over your dog’s environment. Ask your veterinarian about your residential area so if ticks or fungal diseases are common, you will know what to look for.

    Prevent trauma to eye; use caution when throwing balls or other objects.

    Information In-depth for Dogs with Anterior Uveitis

    A diagnosis of anterior uveitis simply means there is inflammation inside the eye. Numerous diseases can manifest as uveitis, so it can be difficult to diagnose the underlying cause. Several diseases mentioned below may be confined to the eye. However, in other cases, the condition may affect multiple parts of the body and the eye is but one aspect of disease. A dog may have either predominately ocular signs (those pertaining to the eye) or other signs such as weakness, lethargy, decreased appetite, coughing, fever or other problems.

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