Canine uveitis is an inflammation of the uvea, or middle layer of the eye. It is caused by a number of conditions, including distemper, hepatitis, trauma, cataracts, tumours and numerous bacterial and fungal infections. Uveitis may quickly lead to glaucoma and blindness, and is considered a medical emergency. Treatment for the disorder centres on the immediate reduction of inflammation and elimination of the primary underlying condition.
Symptoms of Canine Uveitis
Symptoms of canine uveitis include pain, cloudiness and redness in the eye, as well as unusual squinting and tear production. Your dog may also experience bleeding in the eye, vision loss and a change in iris colour. If any of these signs appear, contact your veterinarian immediately.
If your dog is diagnosed with uveitis, your vet will start treatment by controlling the dangerous eye pressure caused by inflammation. If your dog's cornea is intact, topical versions of the corticosteroids dexamethasone and prednisolone are commonly used for this purpose. These medications penetrate well through the cornea, and are typically quite effective. Depending on the severity of your dog's condition, individual treatment applications may be prescribed anywhere between two and six times daily. Topical atropine may be given four times daily to reduce your dog's pain.
If your vet determines that vision loss is rapidly approaching, she may prescribe systemic, or internal, corticosteroids to provide a quicker anti-inflammatory response. Common examples include prednisone and prednisolone. Before using these medications, your vet will test to make sure that no fungal or bacterial infections are present. Typically, systemic corticosteroids are given twice daily, with dosages that are lowered as inflammation subsides.
In some cases, it may be necessary to use subconjunctival corticosteroids, which are injected directly beneath the conjunctiva, or outer surface of the eye. Common medications for this approach include dexamethasone, triamcinolone and methylprednisolone acetate. Additional damage may be done to the eye if this procedure is performed improperly, and if your doctor chooses this method she will take extra steps to make sure your dog does not move during the procedure.
Topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications may be used if your dog has cornea damage. Common options include suprofen, diclofenac, indomethacin and flurbiprofen. In some cases, these compounds may diminish inflammation quicker than corticosteroids.
Systemic NSAIDs may also be used for treatment. Common choices include aspirin, ketoprofen, carprofen and tolfenamic acid. Generally, systemic NSAIDs cause fewer adverse side effects than systemic corticosteroids. While it is common to combine these medications with topical or subconjunctival corticosteroids, your vet should never use them with systemic corticosteroids.
Complications and Underlying Causes
Once inflammation and pain are controlled, your vet will begin treating the underlying cause of your dog's uveitis. Methods here will vary according to your dog's particular circumstance. If your dog's uveitis is unresponsive to initial treatment, or if it remains after any underlying infection has been resolved, your vet may prescribe immunosuppressive drugs to curb inflammation. Choices here include cyclosporine and azathioprine. Consult your vet for the details of all medications and procedures used to combat your dog's uveitis.