Pannus disease common in greyhounds

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What is Pannus?

Pannus is a disorder that affects the eye of the greyhound which can eventually lead to blindness if not managed. It is not painful in its early stages, causes no discharge from the eye, and may be hard to see unless you look closely at your greyhound’s eyes in good light. If it is not diagnosed or treated, the disease can slowly cover the clear part of the eye (the ‘cornea’) until the dog can no longer see.

What does it look like?

Pannus symptoms generally start to appear when the dog reaches 2-5 years of age. In the beginning you may notice that only the edge of the cornea seems more pigmented (coloured) than before – like ‘freckles’ developing near the edge of the eye – or there may be a hazy/greyish colour to the edge of the clear part of the eye. Generally, the disease will occur in both eyes, but may be of differing severity.

As the disease progresses, pannus lesions may appear as brown pigment ‘growing’ onto the surface of the eye, or as ‘greyish-pink’ areas of inflamed tissue, which eventually turns into scar tissue. These lesions can eventually spread inwards until the entire eye surface is covered – making the dog blind.

What causes it?

The disease has a genetic component, within certain families and lines within a breed more likely to be affected, but environmental and other factors also play a part in the development of the disease.

Pannus is thought to be an auto-immune disease; these are diseases where the body’s immune system starts to attack the body. Exposure to Ultra-Violet (UV) light is another important factor thought to contribute to pannus. Such exposure to UV light is thought to trigger the start of the condition, or to make the condition worse. Hence, it is important to keep affected dogs out of bright sunlight, especially in the summer months, as the rate of progression of pannus increases with exposure to UV light (from sunlight or reflected light from water).

Can it be treated?

Once the disease has started, there is no ‘cure’ that eliminates pannus. All treatments are directed at slowing the progression of the disease and to prevent flare-ups. The most used treatment to slow progression is cortisone eye drops.

 What should I do if I suspect pannus?

If you suspect your greyhound may be affected by pannus, it’s important to consult your greyhound veterinarian. Other diseases and conditions of the eye can look very similar, particularly in the early stages, and the treatment required may be very different.

Your veterinarian will be able to examine the eye, confirm the diagnosis and discuss treatment options with you. Early diagnosis increases the chance of successful control of the condition. So don’t hesitate – take the greyhound to your vet for a check-up.

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