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a primer on cystic and pigmentary uveitis



Ever wonder who your veterinarian turns to when they have a problem with their own pet, and they are unable to treat the situation? In all honesty, this is not a comfortable place for most vets, as we tend to want to take care of our pets ourselves (with periodic phone calls to colleagues as needed!). Recently, I found myself in the unfamiliar position of worried pet parent, when the care my own dog needed was not something I was able to provide. I quickly called on a specialist (an ophthalmologist, to be exact), who told me my 9-year-old Golden Retriever was dealing with a condition called cystic and pigmentary uveitis. In honor of my recent experience, I thought I would share what I have learned about this condition.


What is cystic and pigmentary uveitis?

As it turns out, this condition is so often seen in Golden Retrievers that it is sometimes referred to as Golden Retriever uveitis. It affects the uveal tract of the eye (the middle layer of the eye, which includes the iris) causing inflammation within these tissues. At this point in time, the underlying cause is unknown, but it is thought to be an inherited immune-mediated disorder, which means the body attacks its own tissues without just cause.

It isn’t always an easy disease to recognize in the beginning, as the clinical signs can be vague and variable. Pet parents generally report signs of decreased vision, light sensitivity, excessive tear production, redness of the white portion of the eye, squinting and sometimes changes within the cornea. As you can imagine, these signs are fairly non-specific, and they can be indicative of a lot of different diseases. 

Therefore, in order to diagnose cystic and pigmentary uveitis, a thorough ocular exam must be performed. This generally requires a veterinary ophthalmologist, although some abnormalities may be detectable with the standard instrumentation at your regular vet’s office. Oftentimes, secondary changes may also be noted as a result of the pigmentary uveitis, including glaucoma and cataracts.


How are cystic and pigmentary uveitis managed?

Although cystic and pigmentary uveitis is not curable, it can often be managed with lifelong medications, including topical anti-inflammatories, and monitoring the eyes closely to ensure medical therapy is instituted as soon as any changes occur. Dog insurance that covers chronic conditions can be very helpful in managing these costs throughout the years. Secondary problems can also be treated as needed. In most cases, the disease will progress, and blindness will ensue. Fortunately, just like people, pets do a great job at adapting to new situations, even blindness!

At this point, my dog has one eye that is blind, but his other eye is doing well! It wasn’t easy having to play the role of the worried pet parent, but we are lucky to have amazing specialists in our area! And of course, ever thankful to have Petplan pet insurance by our side to help with the financial aspects of a worrisome time. 

To more waggin’ and purrin’. rwkj

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Chris AshtonCo-Founder and Co-CEO of Petplan Pet Insurance
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