Pannus in Dogs: A Holistic Approach

By Chelsea Hunt-Rivera / January 8, 2019
Pannus in Dogs

Being a doting dog owner isn’t always a walk in the park. In fact, sometimes it can be pretty stressful. You do everything you can to ensure your pup’s happiness and well-being. Yet, health conditions can still develop. What can else can you do?

Here at SimpleWag, we believe that being able to recognize the signs of any ailments before they worsen is an essential part of being a responsible dog owner. In today’s article, we’ll discuss everything that you should know about a disease called canine pannus. It’s a condition of the eye that can be treated. However, if left without treatment, blindness can occur. Therefore, understanding the symptoms and acting according is paramount. Let’s get started!

Pannus in Dogs

What is Pannus in Dogs

Pannus in dogs is also commonly referred to as chronic superficial keratitis. It is an eye condition that is caused by inflammation of the cornea and involves both the cornea and the third eyelid of a dog’s eye(s). Canine pannus is an immune-mediated condition that commonly affects middle-aged German Shepherds. The condition is not painful. However, if left untreated, pannus will significantly affect your dog’s vision and can even lead to blindness.

What Causes Pannus in Dogs

There are several factors that can lead to the development of pannus in dogs. Understanding your dog’s individual risk of the disease will ultimately help pet owners prevent it from worsening.


In most cases, experts consider canine pannus to be a hereditary condition that develops with age.

Breed Predisposition

Additionally, certain breeds are at a higher risk of developing canine pannus simply due to a breed predisposition. These breeds include:

  • German Shepherd
  • Greyhound
  • Husky
  • Dachshund
  • Border Collie
  • Belgian Tervuren

With that said, any breed or mixed breed of dog can develop the eye condition. However, if you do have one of the aforementioned breeds, it is important to understand the importance of monitoring their eye health.

Additional Predisposing Factors

Furthermore, there are additional predisposing factors that can contribute to the development of pannus. These factors can also exacerbate the condition once it begins forming.

Airborne Allergens

For instance, airborne allergens and irritants can greatly contribute to the development of pannus. For dogs who have eye issues, irritants like smoke and pollution can exacerbate conditions like canine pannus. Avoiding these allergens is an important part of the recovery process as well as a necessary way to prevent a relapse. We’ll discuss both of these points shortly.


High altitudes can also lead to the development of canine pannus. Of course, this can present a troubling reality for a pet owner whose dog was diagnosed with pannus as moving to a lower altitude may not be a realistic possibility. However, try not to panic. We will discuss alternative ways to help prevent relapse.

Altitude can be a factor in Pannus in Dogs

Large Amounts of Direct Sunlight

Additionally, large quantities of UV light can lead to canine pannus. If your dog is already at a genetic predisposition for developing canine pannus, avoiding direct sunlight will be a necessary step in order to prevent the disease.

Underlying Eye Conditions

Furthermore, underlying eye conditions that are left undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated can also lead to chronic inflammation of the cornea and the development of pannus.


Finally, entropion, a condition where the eyelashes are turned inward can also lead to chronic irritation and inflammation of the cornea. While pannus in dogs doesn’t cause them to experience any pain, entropion does. The abnormality of the eyelids can cause severe discomfort, not to mention serious harm to the eye. The condition is a hereditary disorder which requires surgical treatment. In some cases, several surgeries will be necessary in order for the dog to live a pain-free life.

Clinical Signs of Pannus Formation

As we previously mentioned, a key element of getting your dog the veterinary attention they need is being able to recognize signs of disease. In terms of canine pannus, there are several specific clinical signs that all dog owners should be aware of.

Elevated Pink Mass

Typically, the first physical sign of canine pannus is an elevated pink mass in the cornea. The pink mass is often found on the outer or lateral side of the dog’s eye(s). Speaking of which, it is possible for pannus to only affect one eye but it more commonly affects both eyes.

Variances in the Third Eyelid

Additionally, pet owners will likely see changes in their dog’s third eyelid. It will often appear thickened and inflamed and can cause severe redness and even tearing. It is also possible for pannus to only affect the dog’s third eyelid and not affect the cornea. This variance is referred to as nictitans plasmacytic conjunctivitis or plasmoma.

Progressive Signs of Disease

As pannus progresses and the inflammation spreads and worsens, pet owners will notice that the lesion will flatten out and become dark in color. It will also spread, covering more surface of the eye. The spreading of the legion will ultimately cause scarring of the cornea. When canine pannus reaches this progressed state, blindness is soon to follow. Again, we cannot stress enough the importance of treatment when it comes to this potentially irreversible disease.

Pannus is Not Painful

Many diseases are discovered once the dog begins showing signs of pain. However, when it comes to canine pannus, the inflammation of the cornea doesn’t cause Fido any discomfort. For that reason, it is extremely important for pet owners to stay aware of any changes in the appearance of their dog’s eyes. In progressed stages of the disease, dogs may seem more clumsy as their vision deteriorates. The number one thing pet owners can do is make sure the condition doesn’t progress to this stage without their knowledge of its existence.

Pannus in Dogs causes clumsiness

How is Pannus Diagnosed

If you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms of pannus, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Once at your vet’s office, your doctor will do a thorough examination and be able to diagnose the disease based on the clinical signs and your dog’s medical history.

However, to rule out additional disease, your vet may also perform the following diagnostic tests.

Corneal Staining with Fluorescein

A fluorescein corneal staining may be recommended in order to rule out the possibility of an ulceration of the cornea. The test can also detect any foreign bodies in the eye and recognize any damage that it may have caused. A fluorescein eye stain test is also the examination administered to humans if corneal damage is suspected.

Intraocular Pressure Testing (IOP)

Intraocular pressure testing may also be recommended as it can detect chronic diseases such as glaucoma. The IOP test can also assess both acute and chronic eye disorders in dogs and people alike.

Corneal or Conjunctival Biopsies

Additionally, biopsies may be performed in order to examine specific cells. These biopsies involve scraping the cornea and/or lining of the eye.

A Schirmer Tear Test

Finally, a Schirmer Tear Test may be recommended in order to measure tear production or lack thereof.

After the initial testing, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist who specializes in eye disorders for a more advanced examination.

Blood Testing

It is also possible that your veterinarian may recommend blood tests in order to help determine the underlying cause of the disease. A complete blood count (CBC) is a commonly administered examine that tests for anemia, infection, inflammation, and other diseases. Additionally, chemistry tests can provide information regarding the function of the kidneys, liver, and pancreas, as well as test for blood sugar levels. Finally, additional blood tests may be conducted to rule out Lyme disease and other infectious diseases.

Blood Tests for dogs

Conventional Treatment for Pannus

Conventional treatment for canine pannus will not “cure” the disease, but rather put a stop to its progression and deterioration of eyesight. It can also reverse some of the negative changes caused by the disease. Treatment for pannus will often involve topical corticosteroids and other eye medications such as medicated eye drops. Conventional treatment will typically be a lifelong commitment but proves to be effective if administered consistently and responsibly.

In some cases of canine pannus, a secondary infection may have also developed. Your vet will be able to determine this through the aforementioned blood tests. In these cases, antibiotic treatment will be necessary.

In severe cases of canine pannus, surgery or radiation therapy may be necessary.

Dogs with canine pannus will ultimately require repeated check-ups and monitoring to ensure that the conventional medication is continuing to work and eye lesions are not redeveloping. The condition is known to relapse, making regular vet visits absolutely imperative.

Alternative Treatment: A Holistic Approach

For many pet owners, the idea of a superficial keratectomy procedure is troubling, particularly when you consider that their condition can redevelop if the underlying immune problem isn’t treated. For this reason (among others), more and more pet owners are turning to homeopathic remedies for treating their dog’s chronic inflammation.

Before we dive into ways to holistically support the healing of the cornea, we want to reiterate that all dogs are different. What works for one dog, may not work for the next, even if they have the identical health concern. Therefore, we always recommend seeking out a holistic veterinarian in your area. A holistic vet can determine the best homeopathic treatment option for your dog’s individual needs.

The Importance of Eye Lubrication

For dogs with pannus, as well as dogs suffering from KCS (dry eye), lubricating eye drops and gels can help make a significant improvement in their eye health. Brands like Genteal and Systane are both great over-the-counter options. Keeping your dog’s eyes lubricated throughout their homeopathic treatment is key as it promotes natural healing of the cornea and prevents further irritation.

Diet Diet Diet

Your dog’s diet is an incredibly important part of their overall health. When it comes to treating pannus in dogs, holistic experts will often recommend adding dietary supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin E, Coenzyme Q-10, and dimethylglycine (DMG). Additionally, ensuring that your dog is being fed the best food available can make a major difference in the way that their body heals. Pet owners may want to consider a raw food diet or one that is rich in a fresh variety of meats and veggies. Furthermore, be sure to avoid foods with artificial colorings or additives.

We likely don’t have to mention that your dog’s diet is tied to just about everything in their life, both good and bad. Their diet not only serves as a treatment for a number of ailments, but also the prevention of diseases. We encourage our readers to take a close look at what they are feeding their four-legged companion and make any necessary adjustments accordingly. It will truly make a huge difference in their health and well-being.

Limiting Vaccinations

Additionally, experts continue to find that many diseases, including canine pannus, are worsened with the use of immunizations, specifically yearly vaccines and vaccinations administered to young puppies. We talk a lot in our articles about limiting vaccinations and this is yet another reason why we feel so strongly about our opinion. Over-vaccinating our animals is a real thing and can lead to a slew of diseases that otherwise would be preventable. We highly recommend talking to your holistic veterinarian regarding the vaccines that your dog actually needs. It may surprise you how small the number is. Finally, prior to receiving their legally required rabies shot, consider a homeopathic treatment three months beforehand to limit the vaccines negative effects on the immune system.

“Doggles” or Dog Sunglasses

Additionally, during both conventional and homeopathic treatment, limiting direct sun exposure is imperative for your dog’s healing eyes. It is also essential for preventing a relapse (more on that in a moment). However, experts agree that sun exposure also has its health benefits for Fido’s overall health. Understanding the need to protect the eyes yet importance of sun lead companies like Doggle to create dog sunglasses. Surprisingly, most dogs grow accustomed to the glasses in a short amount of time. We particularly like Doggles because they have a 100% UV block which protects the eyes from harmful UV rays while still allowing your pup to benefit from sun exposure from time to time. Not to mention, they are absolutely adorable.

Doggles or Sunglasses can help Pannus in Dogs

CBD: An All Natural Anti-Inflammatory

We also recommend implementing an all-natural anti-inflammatory supplement such as CBD oil. We talk a lot about inflammation in many of our articles because we want pet owners to be implicitly aware of how dangerous it truly is. When experts trace the vast majority of ailments back to their root cause, they find they all have one major thing in common: inflammation. Inflammation is the culprit of nearly every disease and health issue. From allergies to cancer to arthritis, inflammation is to blame. In terms of pannus in dogs, inflammation is once again an issue as the disease develops from inflammation of the cornea.

Therefore, reducing and preventing inflammation is a crucial part of relieving diseases like canine pannus. Our favorite anti-inflammatory supplement is CBD oil for dogs. CBD oil is non-toxic, all natural, and completely safe. It is incredibly effective at not only alleviating present ailments, but also working to prevent them from developing. We highly recommend CBD oil from the company Honest Paws. They use 100% natural, full spectrum CBD oil that is sure to benefit your dog in a multitude of ways. For around $2 a day, you can make sure you’re doing all you can to support Fido’s well-being by implementing a supplement like CBD oil.

Preventing Pannus in Dogs

Speaking of preventing canine pannus, there are a few additional options for dog owners to consider. We understand that not all cases of pannus in dogs are able to be 100% avoided. However, there are certainly ways that dog owners can work towards supporting their canine’s eyesight and overall eye health.

Understanding Genetic Factors

First, we discussed that certain dogs are genetically predisposed to diseases like canine pannus. An important part of being a responsible pet owner is understanding what (if any) health conditions your dog is at a higher risk of developing based on their breed. In terms of canine pannus, if you have a German Shepherd, Greyhound, Husky, Dachshund, Border Collie, or Belgian Tervuren, understand that monitoring their eye health is imperative. Furthermore, if you do notice any symptoms of canine pannus, seeking medical attention in a timely manner is paramount. It can truly save your dog’s vision.

Altitude & Direct Sunlight

Two additional factors that contribute to the development of canine pannus are altitude and sunlight. Therefore, monitoring these conditions can make a world of difference for (wo)man’s best friend. Of course, we understand that there may not be a lot you can do regarding altitude. It may not be in the realm of possibilities to move to a lower region.

However, dog owners can certainly control the amount of direct sunlight that their dog receives. Limit outdoor time and walks to early morning and evening. Additionally, if your dog is relaxing outside, always make sure they have a shaded area to retreat to. This is also a key factor in preventing dehydration, sunburns, and skin cancer.

Furthermore, many experts agree that preventing pannus is challenging. The dog owner’s ultimate goal should be preventing a pannus relapse and know how to recognize early signs of the disease. As we previously mentioned, we recommend looking into a company like Doggle to help protect your dog’s eyes.


Just like people, dogs can suffer from airborne allergens and irritants that can greatly disrupt their overall health. Airborne irritants and allergens, such as smoke, are also causes of the development of canine pannus. Therefore, preventing exposure is an important and necessary way to prevent the disease. Additionally, environmental allergens are also the cause of a slew of other health issues including skin allergies and respiratory issues. Whenever possible, limiting your dog’s exposure to these allergens will ultimately benefit their health in more ways than one.

Prognosis for Dogs with Canine Pannus

The prognosis for dogs with pannus is often positive when the disease is caught in an early stage. Most dogs respond well to conventional topical medications, although we highly recommend seeking a holistic approach to treatment. It is possible that a dog with pannus may have to visit a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist in order to receive certain, more aggressive treatments. Additionally, in very severe cases, surgery may be necessary. Again, we cannot stress enough the importance of an early diagnosis. If left untreated, inflammation of the cornea will result in blindness. If for any reason you suspect that your dog is having eye problems, do not delay in getting them the medical attention they need.

Pannus in Dogs Prevention

Pannus in Dogs: The Bottom Line

When all is said and done, we know that you only want the very best for your four-legged companion. When health issues arise (and they inevitably will), try not to panic. The first step in relieving your dog’s ailment is recognizing that there is a problem. When it comes to canine pannus, treatment is available, both conventional and holistic. Ultimately, it is up to the pet owner to decide what is best for their furry companion. With that said, we highly recommend considering an all natural, holistic approach to treating canine pannus. Whatever you choose, most importantly, don’t wait in doing so. Canine pannus won’t suddenly resolve itself and can cause irreversible harm is left without treatment.

From all of us here at Simple Wag, we sincerely hope your best friend feels better soon!

*What is Panniculus*

Before we completely sign off we want to mention that a disease called panniculus is often incorrectly referred to as pannus. Panniculus affects the lower abdominal region and is in no way tied to canine pannus. The more you know!


Holistic Care Of Pannus


About the author

Chelsea Hunt-Rivera

Chelsea Rivera is a Dedicated Pet Parent who loves to create amazing content for pet owners and is helping change pet wellness as the Head of Content for