Pannus in Dogs: Cause, Symtoms and Treatment

icon August 15, 2023

Pannus in dogs holds a special place in our hearts, offering abundant happiness and camaraderie. Nevertheless, just like any living creature, they might confront health hurdles. Among these challenges is pannus, a condition targeting primarily the eyes of dogs. Referred to as chronic superficial keratitis, pannus can bring about unease for both canines and their caregivers. This piece will explore the origins, indications, detection, and handling of pannus in dogs.

What is Pannus in Dogs?

In dogs, "pannus" refers to a chronic, progressive eye condition formally known as "chronic superficial keratitis" or "keratitis sicca." Pannus is an immune-mediated condition, which means that the dog's immune system mistakenly targets and attacks its own corneal tissue. This leads to inflammation and changes in the cornea's appearance. Pannus primarily affects the cornea, which is the clear front part of the eye that covers the iris and pupil. 

What Does Pannus Look Like in Dogs?

Pannus in dogs manifests as a noticeable condition affecting the eyes, particularly the cornea. The cornea might develop a cloudy or hazy appearance, often with a bluish-gray tint. Additionally, abnormal blood vessels can start to grow into the cornea, giving it a reddish or pinkish hue. These blood vessels are a characteristic sign of pannus and contribute to the altered appearance of the eye.

How Do I Identify Pannus in My Dog? Dry Eye vs Pannus

Recognizing and differentiating between pannus and dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) in your dog requires careful observation of their symptoms and consulting with a veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis. Here's how you can recognize and distinguish between these two conditions:

Here's a summarized comparison of the specific differences between pannus and dry eye based on the provided symptoms:



Dry Eye

Corneal Changes Cloudiness, opacity, bluish-gray tint Dryness on the corneal surface
Blood Vessels Abnormal vessels, reddish or pinkish hue No specific presence of abnormal vessels
Sensitivity to Light Sensitive to light, avoids bright areas No direct sensitivity to light
Vision Changes Changes due to corneal opacity No direct vision changes
Chronic Inflammation Chronic inflammation, discomfort, pain Inflammation causing redness and irritation
Discharge Not typically associated with discharge Thick, mucus-like or yellowish discharge
Visible Third Eyelid No direct effect on the visibility of the eyelid The third eyelid might be more visible
Eye Color Bluish-gray tint No specific change in eye color

Please note that these comparisons are based on the provided information and that individual cases can vary. If you suspect your dog has pannus, dry eye, or any other eye condition, it's important to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

What Dog Breeds Are Prone to Pannus?

Certain dog breeds are more predisposed to developing pannus, also known as chronic superficial keratitis. These breeds often have a genetic susceptibility to the condition. While pannus can potentially affect any dog, it is more commonly seen in the following breeds:

  • German Shepherd: They have a higher risk of developing the condition, particularly in their middle to older years.
  • Border Collie: Border Collies are also prone to pannus, with some individuals developing the condition earlier in life.
  • Greyhound: Greyhounds, especially those with lighter-colored coats, have an increased susceptibility to pannus.
  • Belgian Tervuren: This breed, which is part of the Belgian Shepherd family, is known to be at risk for pannus.
  • Australian Shepherd: Australian Shepherds can also be prone to developing pannus.
  • Siberian Husky: While less common than in some other breeds, Siberian Huskies are also known to develop pannus.

German Shepherd

Related: Health Problems in German Shepherds

What Causes Pannus in Dogs?

The exact cause of pannus, or chronic superficial keratitis, in dogs, is not fully understood. However, it is believed to be a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors, particularly exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. Especially in regions with high levels of sunlight, is considered a significant environmental factor in the development and progression of pannus. UV light exposure can trigger or exacerbate the immune response in the cornea, leading to the characteristic changes seen in the pannus. 

Oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and the body's ability to neutralize them, may play a role in the development of pannus. UV light exposure can lead to oxidative stress in the cornea, contributing to the inflammatory process.

Is Pannus in Dogs Painful?

Yes, pannus in dogs can be painful and uncomfortable. The inflammation and changes that occur in the cornea due to the immune response can lead to discomfort, irritation, and even pain for affected dogs. As the condition progresses, the cornea becomes cloudy, blood vessels can invade the tissue, and corneal ulcers might develop. All of these factors can contribute to varying degrees of discomfort and pain. The discomfort can make it challenging for dogs to keep their eyes open fully.

Is Pannus in Dogs Contagious?

No, pannus in dogs is not contagious. It is not caused by a virus, bacteria, or any other infectious agent that can be transmitted from one dog to another. Pannus is primarily an immune-mediated condition, meaning that it results from the dog's own immune system targeting its corneal tissue.

Treatment for Pannus in Dogs

When detected in the early stages, pannus, are easily managed and are unlikely to cause much disruption to the daily lives of pets and owners. However, in the middle and late stages, pannus can be difficult to cure
While there is no cure for pannus, effective management can significantly improve your dog's quality of life. Treatment options include:

  • Topical Medications: Corticosteroids and immunosuppressive eye drops are commonly prescribed to control inflammation and halt the progression of the condition.
  • Cyclosporine: This immunosuppressive medication can help regulate the immune response and prevent further damage.
  • UV Protection: Limiting your dog's exposure to UV light by using protective eyewear or reducing outdoor time during peak sun hours can be beneficial.
    Regular Vet Visits: Routine check-ups are essential to monitor the condition's progress and adjust treatment as needed.

What Are the Early Stages of Pannus in Dogs?

Pannus, or chronic superficial keratitis, in dogs, can progress through various stages, each with its own set of symptoms. In addition to recognizing intermediate symptoms, it is also important to recognize intermediate and late symptoms.

Early Symptoms

  • Increased Tearing: Dogs might begin to produce excessive tears due to eye irritation and inflammation.
  • Mild Redness: The eyes might appear slightly red or irritated.
  • Squinting: Dogs may start squinting or keeping their eyes partially closed due to discomfort.
  • Mild Cloudiness: The cornea might develop a slight cloudy or hazy appearance, especially towards the edges.

Middle Symptoms

  • Opacity: The cloudiness or opacity of the cornea can become more pronounced, leading to reduced clarity and potentially affecting vision.
  • Blood Vessels: Abnormal blood vessels may begin to grow into the cornea, giving it a pinkish or reddish appearance.
  • Sensitivity to Light: Dogs might show increased sensitivity to bright light, causing them to avoid well-lit areas and squint even more.
  • Visible Blood Vessels: Blood vessels become more visible and pronounced on the surface of the cornea.

Late Symptoms

  • Severe Opacity: The cornea can become significantly cloudy, impairing vision more noticeably.
  • Advanced Blood Vessels: Abnormal blood vessels might spread further into the cornea, causing more extensive reddening.
  • Corneal Ulcers: The ongoing inflammation and changes in the cornea's structure can lead to the development of corneal ulcers, which are painful and can further affect vision.
  • Visual Impairment: Due to the worsening opacity and potential complications like corneal ulcers, dogs might experience notable vision impairment.
  • Rubbing or Scratching: Dogs might scratch or rub their eyes more frequently due to discomfort and pain.

Natural Remedies for Pannus in Dogs

While pannus in dogs generally requires medical treatment for effective management, there are a few natural approaches that might complement conventional treatments. Here are some potential natural remedies:

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, often found in fish oil supplements, have anti-inflammatory properties that might help reduce inflammation associated with pannus.

Puainta™ Sardine Fish Oil for Dogs and Cats | Omega 3 Supplement
  • 0 Harmful Chemicals: Fish oil in its raw state may contain toxins like heavy metals. Distillation removes these harmful chemicals, as well as other impurities, so the final product is safe.
  • Richer in DHA and EPA: Compared to the oil extracted from larger fish like salmon, oil extracted from smaller fish like sardines and anchovies are richer in DHA and EPA. 
  • Featured ingredient: When combined with fish oil, vitamin E can help control inflammation levels in the body. Since supplementation with fish oil can lead to lower vitamin E levels, we have added this natural antioxidant to prevent any deficiency.

Please note: This fish oil undergoes ultra-refining, extraction and molecular distillation in an ISO 22000 and GMP and EIA certified manufacturing facility.

2. Antioxidants

Antioxidant-rich foods or supplements (e.g., vitamin E, vitamin C) might help counteract oxidative stress, which is believed to play a role in pannus development.

Puainta® Multivitamin Chews To Provide Health Support, 200 Tablets/bottlePuainta™ Multivitamin Chews Coat Health Support, 200 counts

3. UV Protection

Providing shade and using UV-blocking dog goggles during outdoor activities can help protect your dog's eyes from excessive UV light exposure.

4. Healthy Diet

A balanced and nutritious diet supports overall health, including the immune system. Consult your vet for diet recommendations suitable for your dog's condition.

5. Herbal Eye Drops

Some herbal eye drops or washes might offer mild relief for eye discomfort, but consult your vet before using any product in your dog's eyes.

Puainta® Tear Stain Remover, Antimicrobial Eye Wash for Dogs/ Cats

Puainta® Tear Stain Remover, Antimicrobial Eye Wash for Dogs/ Cats

This eye wash also contains boric acid, which helps fight eye infections and prevents irritation caused by foreign bodies and air pollution.

  • Helps dissolve compounds discharged from the eyes and eliminate colored dirt such as tear stains
  • Be of antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory functions to clear eye fever, toxin, swelling and pain in eyes
  • Reduce excess secretions due to the obstruction of the nasolacrimal duct
  • Helps clean discharge from your pet's eye caused by allergies or other eye problems
  • Cost-effective, pain-free alternative to medicated eye drops


Pannus can be a challenging condition to manage, but with prompt veterinary care and consistent treatment, affected dogs can lead happy and comfortable lives. Early detection, appropriate medications, and preventive measures against UV exposure are crucial in ensuring the best possible outcome. As responsible dog owners, being aware of potential health issues like pannus and seeking professional guidance can make a significant difference in our beloved furry friends' well-being.



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