Uveitis (Soft Eye) in Dogs

This disease is caused by an inflammation of the iris and ciliary body. The iris is the shutter that controls the size of the pupil. The ciliary body produces the fluid that nourishes the structures in front of the lens and maintains intraocular pressure.

Most cases of anterior uveitis are caused by autoimmune complexes that gain access to the anterior chamber. Thus, anterior uveitis may occur with a long list of bacterial infections and systemic diseases in dogs. Local diseases associated with anterior uveitis include corneal ulceration, rupture of the lens, and trauma to the eye. In some cases of uveitis the cause is unknown.

Anterior uveitis is painful and is accompanied by a red eye, severe tearing and squinting, avoidance of light, and protrusion of the third eyelid. The pupil is small and reacts sluggishly to light. It may appear hazy or cloudy due to inflammation in the anterior chamber. A distinguishing feature of anterior uveitis (but one that is not always present) is that the affected eye feels softer than the normal eye.

The diagnosis is made by a complete veterinary eye examination. It is important to measure intraocular pressure to rule out glaucoma.

Treatment: Any systemic or local disease must be identified and treated. The treatment of uveitis is complex and involves the use of local and systemic corticosteroids, NSAIDs, immunosuppressants, and drugs that dilate the pupil. Problems that can occur along with or after an episode of anterior uveitis include secondary glaucoma, cataracts, sunken eye, and blindness. The likelihood of such complications can be minimized by early diagnosis and treatment.

This article is excerpted from “Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.