Dog: Keratitis

General information

Other common/scientific names: inflammation of the cornea

The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front part of the eye. It is a tough, firm layer which protects the pupil, iris and other interior parts of the eye. The transparency of the cornea allows light to pass through and its curvature gives it focusing power. The cornea has no blood vessels but does contain many nerves making it very sensitive to pain or touch. The eyelids and tear film provide lubrication and nourishment to the cornea.

Abb. GF52D9AD
Abb. GF52D9AD: Schematic illustration of the eye, side view, showing the position of the conjunctiva and cornea.

Keratitis is defined as inflammation of the cornea.


In most cases, keratitis is seen as a result of or in addition to another eye condition such as conjunctivitis, entropion, corneal ulcers or KCS.

An exception to this is chronic superficial keratitis (CSK) or pannus which is a separate condition. CSK is an immune-mediated condition seen most commonly in German Shepherds. The cornea is invaded by blood vessels and connective tissue. Ultraviolet light, high altitude and breed inheritance are thought to be causes of CSK.


Clinical signs of keratitis will depend on the cause but usually results in eye pain. Signs of eye pain are squinting and holding the eye shut, excessive blinking, excessive tearing and rubbing at the eye. Photophobia is common.

In the case of CSK, a raised, pink and fleshy are will appear on the edge of the cornea. Blood vessels can be seen on the corneal surface. As the disease progresses, the abnormal area will move more centrally and can affect the entire cornea. The cornea can appear cloudy and pigmented. CSK usually affects both eyes.


Diagnosis of keratitis always includes a complete ophthalmic examination. Depending on the suspected cause, other ocular tests will need to be performed to identify and treat the cause. CSK is diagnosed on known breed disposition, appearance of specific corneal lesions and ruling out other conditions.


Depending on the cause keratitis is treated with antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops. Artificial tears may be necessary. CSK is treated with a combination of topical (eye) anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive medications. Injections of anti-inflammatory medications underneath the conjunctiva may be needed in severe cases of CSK. While dogs with CSK cannot be cured, they can be managed with lifelong medications to control the inflammation and save vision.


Prognosis of keratitis can be good where the underlying cause is identified and treated. Chronic conditions of the eye can require daily medications which can be both frustrating and expensive. Many condition associated with keratitis can lead to vision loss or complete blindness if not treated properly.


Abb. GF52K0PP
Abb. GF52K0PP: Applying eye ointment.
This is a photograph of applying eye ointment to a dog’s eye. Care should be taken not to touch the tip of the ointment tube to the eye. Place your hand on the dog’s face, under the eye to steady your hand if the dog moves and prevent touching the eye.

Abb. GF52KUV1
Abb. GF52KUV1: Applying eye drops.
This is a photograph of applying eye drops to a dog’s eye. The dog’s head should be tipped upward to allow the drops to fall into the eye. Place your hand on the dog’s face, under the eye to steady your hand if the dog moves and prevent touching the eye.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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