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Eye Inflammation (Choroid and Retina) in Dogs

Chorioretinitis in Dogs

Chorioretinitis in dogs is a medical condition characterized by inflammation of the choroid and retina, which are vital components of the eye. The retina is a multi-layered membrane lining the inner eyeball and houses light-sensitive cells responsible for transmitting visual signals to the brain. Situated beneath the retina, the choroid constitutes part of the middle layer of the eyeball and contains blood vessels essential for ocular health. In severe cases, chorioretinitis can lead to retinal detachment, where the retina becomes separated from the underlying choroid due to widespread inflammation.

Chorioretinitis can signify an underlying systemic disease, underscoring the importance of thorough diagnostic testing. Dogs afflicted with uveodermatologic syndrome, an immune-mediated disorder, often exhibit inflammation affecting the iris and other structures in the front of the eye. This condition, characterized by eye inflammation, impaired vision, and skin depigmentation, typically requires lifelong management to mitigate inflammation and preserve ocular health. Breeds such as Akitas, Chow Chows, and Siberian Huskies are particularly predisposed to uveodermatologic syndrome.

Furthermore, chorioretinitis can stem from various causes, including generalized fungal infections, more prevalent in large hunting-breed dogs. The Borzoi breed is susceptible to a specific ocular disorder characterized by retinal edema and chorioretinal atrophy, known as Borzoi chorioretinopathy, resulting in retinal deterioration and pigmented areas. Additionally, inflammation associated with chorioretinitis can lead to secondary glaucoma, necessitating prompt treatment to alleviate intraocular pressure.

In summary, chorioretinitis in dogs warrants comprehensive evaluation and management, as it can indicate underlying systemic conditions and potentially lead to vision impairment if left untreated.

Symptoms and Types

Chorioretinitis typically does not cause pain unless it affects the front part of the eye, particularly the iris. Signs indicating chorioretinitis may include abnormalities in the vitreous, such as tearing, bleeding, or evidence of liquefaction. The vitreous refers to the clear, gel-like substance that fills the back part of the eyeball between the lens and the retina. In dogs, infestation of the eye by fly larvae is a common occurrence. Traces from migrating larvae may be visible upon examination of the eye using an ophthalmoscope.

When assessed with an ophthalmoscope, changes in the retina’s appearance may include alterations in color, areas that appear darker or lighter, scars, and changes in the contour or surface of the retina. Close examination may reveal few or small lesions within the retina.

Causes

The causes of chorioretinitis are diverse, as outlined in the list below. Veterinarians must consider various factors including biological, chemical, and genetic influences when identifying potential causes. In some cases, the cause may remain unknown, leading to classification as idiopathic, meaning of unknown origin.

  • Parasites
  • Fungal infections
  • Bacterial infections (e.g., Rickettsia)
  • Viral infections (e.g., canine distemper virus, rabies virus, and herpes virus, which is rare and mainly observed in newborn puppies)
  • Algal infections (resulting from water plant-based sources, typically from plants growing in stagnant water)
  • Protozoal infections
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Cancer
  • Generalized infections, such as septicemia or bacteremia
  • Toxicity (e.g., antifreeze poisoning or adverse reactions to medications)
  • Physical trauma

Diagnosis

Veterinarians employ a variety of both invasive and non-invasive diagnostic techniques to accurately diagnose chorioretinitis in pets. Non-invasive methods may involve measuring the pet’s blood pressure, conducting an extensive examination of the retina using indirect ophthalmoscopy (a tool for visualizing the internal structures of the eye using a light-reflecting mirror), or utilizing direct ophthalmoscopy for detailed inspection of affected areas within the eye. If initial results are inconclusive, the consideration of invasive procedures becomes necessary to identify the underlying cause of chorioretinitis.

Diagnostic procedures may include examining a fluid specimen extracted from the eye, which is a relatively straightforward process. Alternatively, a more thorough examination may require sampling cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, to detect signs of infection or indications of central nervous system disease or optic neuritis. This involves performing a spinal tap, where a needle is inserted into the spine to collect cerebrospinal fluid, which is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. While the procedure is generally quick, sedation is necessary for the pet, and they may experience some effects for the remainder of the day following the procedure.

Treatment

The treatment plan will vary based on the patient’s physical condition but typically involves outpatient care.

Living and Management

Potential long-term complications of chorioretinitis include permanent blindness, cataracts, glaucoma, and chronic eye pain. In severe cases, death may result secondary to systemic disease.

The prognosis for chorioretinitis varies from guarded to good in terms of retaining vision, depending on the extent of retinal involvement and the underlying cause. Permanent visual deficits or blindness may occur if large portions of the retina are damaged. Focal and multifocal diseases typically do not result in permanent vision impairment but may leave scars on the animal’s eyes.

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