A brief on " Uveo-Dermatological Syndrome " in Dogs
The Uveo-Dermatological Syndrome, because of the strong
similarity to an auto-immune disease in humans, it is more often
known as VKH ( recognizing the scientists Vogt, Koyanagi and
Harada who discovered the disease in humans). The lesions
are restricted to the skin, hair and eye (vitiligo, poliosis and uveitis).
Dog breeds affected includes the Samoyed, the Irish Setter,
the Golden Retriever, the Chow-Chow, the Shetland Sheepdog,
the Siberian Husky, the Old English Sheepdog, the St Bernard,
as well as the Japanese Akita.
Uveo Dermatological Syndrome, is one of the worst diseases
found in Akitas. It affects eyes, with most (though not all) dogs
eventually becoming blind. Most often it seems to start with a
severe conjunctivitis and often follows a sudden stressful period.
The affected eyes are extremely painful, bulging with internal
pressure, and the retinas detach, resulting many cases in
permanent blindness. However, as with many diseases both
in humans and animals, the degree of severity varies from
individual to individual.
For reasons that are not understood, the retina in dogs is
more resilient than in humans and if treated quickly with the
appropriate drugs, can reattach and a reasonable degree of
sight can be restored. Since this can recur at irregular intervals,
the retina will be damaged on each recurrence, and therefore
the degree of sight restored will gradually be reduced. It also
affects the skin, with loss of pigmentation and hair loss around
the eyes, muzzle, anus and these mucous membrane areas
can also become "crusty".
In dogs, the disease itself is not life threatening, but blindness
is not unusual. The uveitis varies in severity and prompt diagnosis
can result in relatively effective treatment. Acute blindness is due to
retinal-detachment, whereas chronic uveitis can lead to blindness
as the result of cataract formation or the development of glaucoma.
Poliosis and vitiligo usually begin within 2 weeks of the uveitis, but
it may take several months to develop. Poliosis involves the face,
and the eyelids, the nose, the lips, the scrotum and the footpads
may be involved in vitiligo. Occasionally, the vitiligo may involve the
whole body, and the de-pigmentation areas may ulcerate. Loss of
hair may occur, but not all 'patients' will be involved.
As with humans, the precise nature of the cause of the disease is
unknown, although VKH is believed to be caused by a recessive
gene, but until a DNA marker is found this is not yet proven.
Treatment can be difficult. Speedy and prompt diagnosis is
essential and many vets will refer the patient to an ophthalmic
specialist who is more familiar with the disease. Topical and
systemic corticosteroids are usually used. Long-term treatment is
often essential to prevent recurrent attacks, and other treatments
involving immuno-suppressive and cytotoxic drugs may have to be
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