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Could Your Dog Have Pannus? What to Look for and How to Treat it.

We last wrote about pannus almost a year ago, and with summer approaching it’s a good time for a refresher to help more dog owners be aware of its symptoms and how to treat it early on. If you’ve talked to us on the phone or run into us out in the dog world, you probably already know our boy Tuckerman was diagnosed with pannus four years ago. We were heartbroken over the thought of leaving him inside, and we figured there had to be something we could do to protect his eyes, and – long story short – Rex Specs was born. After developing a product that dramatically improved Tuck's day-to-day situation, it’s been a passion of ours to help other dog owners not let pannus take its toll on a loyal companion’s quality of life.

So first of all, what is pannus? Pannus (Chronic Superficial Keratitis) is an immune system condition that occurs as a result of ultraviolet (UV) light damage to the side of the cornea – the clear part of the eye – that triggers the body to attempt to repair the damage by sending small blood vessels into the layers of the cornea. Since the cornea doesn’t normally have blood vessels, the dog’s immune system assumes they may be harmful to the body, so the subsequent immune system reaction is to attempt to destroy the corneal tissues. 

What all this science talk means is that without treatment, scar tissue begins to develop, and that can ultimately lead to severe visual impairment and blindness.

Pannus is most often found in German shepherds, Border Collies, Huskies, Australian shepherds, Long-Haired dachshunds and Greyhounds, but it can be found in any breed – especially in dogs who live and exercise at higher elevations.

Dr. Steve Roberts, a veterinary ophthalmologist based in Loveland, Colorado, who treats over 700 dogs every month for eye conditions, says the first thing to look for is “cloudiness on the very lateral edge of the cornea, and not only is it cloudy gray, but there’s also little tiny blood vessels in it.” If you look directly at a dog’s face, these early symptoms will show at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock position on the outside of the dogs eye.

Pannus example (Wikipedia) Example signs of pannus (from Wikipedia)

Sadly, there’s no cure for pannus – but the good news is that it’s a treatable disease. Vets most commonly prescribe eye drops, such as dexamethasone, prednisolone, or cyclosporine, to treat it. The earlier you catch this condition, the less chance there is for scar tissue or severe impairment to occur.

In addition to the eye drops, reducing your dog's exposure to UV rays is the most important factor. Dr. Roberts sees a direct connection between pannus severity and the amount of UV light dogs are exposed to each day, especially during summertime. In the winter, he sees an average of 2-4 cases of pannus each month, but between the end of May and September he treats 6-8 cases every week. “Where I’m at in Colorado, the elevation is over 5,000 feet, and a lot of the dogs I deal with are up on the weekends at 7,000-10,000 feet,” he said. “So that has a huge impact, and their treatment can be really difficult to manage. I’ve had people relocate to much lower elevations, and the pannus that was hard to control in Colorado is now very easy to control at elevations less than 1,000 feet."

  Tuck enjoying life above 9,000 feet on a recent hike.

Unfortunately, for so many of us, we can’t imagine relocating away from the mountains that we (and our dogs) love so much. The other option Dr. Roberts and many other vets are now recommending for reducing exposure to UV rays to keep pannus contained is to get your dog in a pair of Rex Specs. Rex Specs are not a substitute for the eye drops, but the lenses are rated UV400 to provide protection from 99-100% UVA/UVB rays to keep the condition from getting worse. We’ve personally seen great success in getting Tuck’s pannus under control by having him in Rex Specs when we're outside. Now we’re on a mission to make sure every dog owner knows the signs of pannus and how to best manage it, and we’d love for you to help us spread the word so all of us can enjoy life to its fullest with our best buds.

Tuck happy and healthy living an outdoor life!

Pannus isn't the only eye condition that warrants the use of eye protection. Exposure to UV rays, especially during summer months, can cause some dog's eyes to sunburn or be more sensitive to the sun. Rex Specs lenses are all UV protected, so you can rest safe when using them. To read another interview by two of our ambassadors who ventures out hiking often with their dog, take a look at this blog post.

If you're looking to find out more about pannus, here's a few starting points:

Does your dog have pannus? Tell us your story below!



  • Andrea Llewellyn on

    Lakota, my German Shepherd Dog, was diagnosed with pannus a few years ago. We have been using the drops since we found out. I knew the symptoms because one of my other Shepherds was diagnosed a year before osteosarcoma took him from me. Lakota is 9 years old… we love to hike in the woods in Iowa. I have been considering getting him some Rex Specs. How quickly do most dogs habituate to them?

  • Allison on

    My 4 year old GSD is going to the vet today to be diagnosed. I can’t believe I missed what was going on.Her right eye is much worse than her left. It has happened quickly. I am hoping the specs will work with her muzzle as she is dog aggressive and gets muzzled when out hiking.

  • Tracy Cook on

    I run a small greyhound rescue in the north east of England. We rescued two 5 year old sisters who were living in a shed. The normal practice for people who race greyhounds here is to keep them in the dark. When rescued Ellen was very thin, had lots of bald patches and open sores. We nursed her back to health. Ellen was adopted by a lovely couple who dote on her, she is very spoilt now. She recently came back to stay with me on a short holiday and I noticed a clouding of her left eye. Today we saw our vet who diagnosed pannus. Ellen is now on medication and will be seen again in two weeks. At 5 years old I am hoping that the effects of her neglected start in life will not affect her future. Whatever happens she will always be loved and cared for.

  • Mike S on

    My Anatolian Sheep dog was found as a stray puppy on the streets of Turkey. She was brought back to England by a charity and I adopted her. She settled with my 3 Weimaraners, horses and cat. She is now 3 years old and we found out the hard way that she has Pannus. Last year I noticed a tiny white dot in the middle of her eye. Thinking it was a thorn in her eye (as happened similarly to a previous dog) I took her to the vet. Luckily my vet has a specialist ophthalmology referral hospital. This was just as well as her eye rapidly deteriorated (melting ulcer) complicated by the pannus attacking the new scar tissue in her cornea. The vets/nurses were fantastic and through a number of treatments including spinning her blood to produce serum and dropping back into her eye she recovered. We have had two further such episodes with the recovery slightly shorter due to the “ghost” blood vessels in her eyes (has had ulcers in both). She is on immune suppressant gel for her eyes (which can cause issue if/when she gets an ulcer but vet guidance helps with this by use of other drops) and comfort drops. Her Pannus (like others) is inflamed by draught, trauma, UV and even bacteria (splashing in streams). My vet suggested a visor but the one available was a cumbersome helmet and I knew my girl would hate it. I thought about something based on ski goggles would help but a search online found Rex specs had done it. Luckily they are available in the UK and I bought her a pair. They fit her pretty well ( could do with being a fraction bigger (she’s 121 pounds -lean)). It’s taken a while to get her to wear them but pretty much there now. Fantastic product and my vet Ines Freitas is very impressed with them. They look great and I hope that they will help protect her eyes and stop the lengthy hospital stays including costs. Very happy.

  • Christine Petersen on

    I am so excited I stumbled upon you site! The goggles we currently use for our German Sheppard, Brewer, have been falling in his eyes. I am nervous they are going to scratch him and then we have to stop eye drops. These look like they would stay so much better! I can’t wait to order some!
    Brewer’s story…
    I took our then 10month old puppy to the groomers and got a call back from the vet saying he had a scratch on his eye. When I picked him up they explained that he has Pannus. I was so shocked that our 10month old puppy had started showing symptoms when he was so young. I was devistated and my husband was deployed at the time, that made it worse. Those first months were such a battle with the eye drops! Once I finally trained Brewer to sit and take the drops and I found some goggles, life slowly developed into a new routine. Once I started learning more about the disease and seeing how happy Brewer still was, I realized nothing will slow him down! We love our pup!


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