This condition, which involves damage to the cornea with subsequent erosion of the epithelial layer, can result in considerable damage and pain to the eye, with conjunctivitis, subsequent scar formation, anterior uveitis, symblepharon and vision loss.
The corneum is divided into three layers:
- Epithelium - the thin membrane on the outer surface of the cornea
- Stroma - the layers of cells between the inner and outer membranes
- Descemet's membrane - the thin membrane on the inner surface of the cornea
Injury to the cornea that damages only the epithelium is called a corneal abrasion. Injury that extends through the epithelium and into the stroma is called a corneal ulcer. A deep ulcer that extends down to Descemet's membrane can result in a descemetocele.
There are many causes of ulcerative keratitis, including:
- Trauma, chemical burns, insect bites
- Breed predisposition
- Calcareous degeneration - due to underlying conditions e.g. hyperadrenocorticism
- Bacterial infections
- - Staphylococcus aureus
- - Pseudomonas aeruginosa
- - Neisseria spp
- - Corynebacterium spp
- - Enterococcus spp
Affected dogs frequently show blepharospasm, varying degrees of epiphora, photophobia and on ophthalmic exmaination, a deficit in the cornea is seen, especially after staining with flourescein dye. Corneal sequestrum may develop in some cases, characterized by a brownish plaque over the ulcerated lesion. These are relatively rare compared to cats.
With Pseudomonas spp infections, the keratitis can quickly worsen, leading to blepharitis, conjunctivitis, dacryocystitis, keratitis, scleritis, chorioretinitis, endophthalmitis and orbital cellulitis.
Treatment requires a number of surgical options such as tarsorrhaphy, debridement and grid keratotomy, conjunctival graft and prosthetic grafts.
Use of topical antimicrobial ophthalmic ointment is indicated in most cases, especially with refractory cases.
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