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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Cloudy Eye (Keratitis)




Condition Overview

Keratitis is inflammation of the cornea in which the cornea becomes cloudy, resulting in loss loss of eye transparency.


The signs are excessive tearing, squinting, pawing at the eye, avoiding light, and protrusion of the third eyelid. There are different types of keratitis - all are serious diseases and can lead to partial or complete blindness.

Ulcerative keratitis - The cornea appears dull and hazy, then cloudy, and finally milky white and relatively opaque (non-transparent). Treatment is similar to that described for corneal ulcer.

Infectious keratitis - In addition to eye pain, infectious keratitis is characterized by a purulent (puss-like) discharge from the eye. The eyelids are swollen and matted. This might at first, suggest conjunctivitis, but conjunctivitis is not usually accompanied by signs of a painful eye. Treatment is similar to that described for corneal ulcer. It is important to use topical antibiotics selected following culture and sensitivity tests.

Interstitial keratitis (blue eye) is a corneal inflammation in which a bluish-white film appears over the clear window of the eye. Signs appear 10 days after exposure. The eyes begin to water and the dog squints and avoids light. Most dogs recover completely within a few weeks. In some cases the eye remains permanently clouded.

Vascular keratitis You can see blood vessles growing onto the cornea with the naked eye.

Pigmentary keratitis This is a separate process, but is often associated with vascular keratitis. Both conditions interfere with vision and may progress to blindness.

Vascular and pigmentary keratitis may, in some cases, be the result of a chronic corneal irritation such as that caused by entropion or lagophthalmos (inability to close eyes). Removing the initiating process may reverse the keratitis.

Pannus is a specific type of non-painful pigmentary keratitis found in German Shepards and their crosses, and also in Belgian Tervurens, Border Collies, Greyhounds, Siberian Huskies, Australian Shepards, and other breeds. It occurs in dogs over 2 years old. A distinguishing feature of pannus is redness and thickening of the third eyelid, but this may not always be present.


Ulcerative keratitis is a painful corneal inflammation that occurs as a complication of keratoconjunctivitis sicca or corneal ulcer.

Infectious keratitis occurs when a bacterial infection complicates ulcerative keratitis, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or corneal ulcer. The most common invading bacteria are Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and Pseudomonas (a community-acquired skin infection).

Fungal keratitis is uncommon in dogs, but may occur with the prolonged use of topical antibiotics.

Interstitial keratitis It is caused by the same virus that causes infectious hepatitis, and at one time it occurred vaccination with CAV-1 (these vaccines are no longer used).

Vascular keratitis is caused by neovascularization - the process by which the transparency of the cornea is lost due to an ingrowth of blood vessles and connective tissue.

Pigmentary keratitis results when melanin pigment is deposited in the cornea.

Pannus An immune-mediated disease is suspected to be the cause. Pannus may be associated with dogs who live at high altitudes, due to the decreased ozone layer.


Fungal keratitis The diagnosis is made by fungal culture. It is treated with anti-fungal drugs.


All types of keratitis must be treated by a vet. Vascular and pigmentary keratitis that are not related to chronic eye irritation are progressive and incurable. The goal of treatment is to arrest the disease and maintain remission.

Neovascularization responds well to high dose topical corticosteroids. These preparations must be monitored closely by your vet. Prolonged use of corticosteroids in the eyes can lead to a mild form of Cushing's syndrome and other problems. improvement begins at 2 - 6 weeks, treatment is life long. Stopping the eye drops even for a short time is followed by relapse. Only a low dose may be needed for maintenance.

Ophthalmic cyclosporine (medicine) applied into the eyes twice daily may reduce the deposition of melanin pigment (brown pigment).


There is currently no known prevention for these conditions.


Please contact your veterinarian if you think your pet may have a corneal ulcer.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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