Autoimmune Disorder (Uveodermatologic Syndrome) in Dogs

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Key takeaways

Uveodermatologic syndrome in dogs is a rare grouping of symptoms that results from the autoimmune system attacking the pigment-producing cells in the eyes, hair, and skin.

  • Symptoms include reddened, cloudy, painful eyes with diminished vision, and whitening of the coat and skin
  • The cause of the disease is not understood, though a viral infection is suspected to be the triggering event
  • Immediate veterinary attention is required for dogs with red, sore eyes, especially if associated with whitening skin or fur
  • Diagnostic tools include physical and eye examination, and biopsy of affected skin
  • Treatment involves steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs, typically on an ongoing basis for months or years
  • Prognosis to keep at least partial sight is fair with early treatment
  • In severe cases, removal of the eyes is necessary to maintain quality of life
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A closer look: Autoimmune Disorder (Uveodermatologic Syndrome) in Dogs


Autoimmune disorders are conditions where the body’s immune system attacks its own cells. Uveodermatologic syndrome is a specific form of autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks pigmentation cells in the eyes, hair, and skin.

The disease usually affects the pigmentation cells in the eyes first, leading to discomfort and vision loss.

Once uveodermatologic syndrome begins to affect the coat, additional symptoms include:

  • Whitening of the coat
  • Whitening of the skin, particularly noticeable around the eyes, nose, lips, and inside the mouth, and sometimes on the scrotum, vulva, anus, or foot pads

Symptoms relating to the skin and hair are cosmetic and do not impact quality of life.

Risk factors


Uveodermatologic syndrome is a rare condition in dogs. Early detection and treatment are required to prevent blindness, therefore immediate veterinary attention is needed for dogs with sore, red eyes.

Uveodermatologic syndrome shows a strong breed predisposition in Akitas. Other breeds that tend to be at risk include:

  • Siberian huskies
  • Alaskan malamutes
  • Samoyeds

Male dogs appear to be more at risk than females.

Possible causes


The cause of this syndrome is not yet fully understood. It is theorized that a viral infection triggers an inappropriate immune response, which causes antibodies to attack the pigment-making cells in the body. The highest concentration of these cells is in the uvea, the part of the eye that includes the iris. For this reason, the first symptoms of uveodermatologic syndrome occur in the eyes. This is followed (often a few months later) by depigmentation of the coat or skin.

Main symptoms


The initial main symptoms of uverodermatologic syndrome occur in the eyes.

Testing and diagnosis


Diagnosis seeks to rule out other more common causes of eye redness and blindness, as uveodermatologic syndrome is very rare. Diagnostic tools include:

  • Physical examination
  • Eye examination
  • Biopsy of affected skin

Steps to Recovery


Treatment aims to suppress the autoimmune reaction using steroids and anti-inflammatory drugs. These are often administered both topically on the eyes and onto the affected skin and coat, as well as internally in the form of pills. Treatment typically continues for months or even years.

Dogs with whitened skin or coats do not suffer any pain or damage due to these symptoms and are only affected cosmetically.

Dogs with red, sore eyes typically experience pain. With early treatment, the prognosis for the dog’s eyesight is fair. The likelihood of permanent blindness increases with delays in treatment or the development of more serious eye disease. In severe cases, the eyes may need to be removed to maintain quality of life and reduce discomfort.

Dogs undergoing treatment for uveodermatologic syndrome require routine veterinary examinations to monitor the progression of treatment and make adjustments in medications.

Prevention


There are no proven preventative measures for uveodermatologic syndrome. Avoiding breeding affected dogs or their immediate relatives is recommended.

Is Autoimmune Disorder (Uveodermatologic Syndrome) in Dogs common?


Uveodermatologic syndrome is rare in dogs.

Typical Treatment


  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Steroids
  • Surgical removal of eyes

References


David Grant - Writing for Improve Veterinary Practice
Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Dr. Patty Khuly, VMD MBA - Writing for Embrace Pet Insurance

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