CVC highlight: It's all in the eyes: A look at ocular signs of disease - Veterinary Medicine
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CVC highlight: It's all in the eyes: A look at ocular signs of disease
A quick overview of ocular signs that may indicate systemic disease in your veterinary patients.


Infectious diseases

Tick-borne disease. Infection with Ehrlichia canis, Rickettsia rickettsii, and Borrelia burgdorferi can cause conjunctivitis, subconjunctival hemorrhage, anterior uveitis, posterior uveitis, chorioretinitis, retinal hemorrhage, or optic neuritis. However, ocular signs are only found in 10% to 15% of naturally infected dogs.

Histoplasmosis. Ocular signs of this fungal disease include blepharitis, uveitis, chorioretinitis, granulomatous retinal detachment, and optic neuritis.

Toxoplasmosis. Serologic testing indicates that up to 79% of cats with uveitis are seropositive for Toxoplasma gondii. However, there is a high Toxoplasma-positive prevalence in healthy, normal cats, and it's uncommon to find the organism in the uvea of a seropositive cat with uveitis.

Immune-mediated diseases

Uveodermatologic syndrome. This canine disease normally produces bilateral anterior and posterior uveitis, often accompanied by serous retinal detachment. This disease only occurs in an eye with pigment, so it can be unilateral in dogs with one blue and one brown eye. Ocular disease will often precede dermatologic signs of poliosis and vitiligo.

Infectious canine hepatitis. This immune-mediated disease caused by canine adenovirus has become rare since vaccination became routine. Infection or vaccination can cause an interstitial keratitis and uveitis. Ocular signs begin about 10 to 14 days after vaccination. Owners may notice blepharospasm, miosis, and photophobia. Within 24 to 48 hours of the onset of uveitis, corneal edema will develop. The corneal edema can be focal or diffuse and has a ground glass appearance.


Ocular lesions associated with hypertension include optic nerve and retinal edema, retinal vessel tortuosity, retinal hemorrhage, vitreal hemorrhage, hyphema, and retinal detachment. Retinal degeneration occurs secondary to ischemia and retinal inflammation.


Signs of metastatic neoplasia include conjunctivitis, uveitis, hyphema, and retinal edema. The most common secondary ocular tumor in all domestic animals is lymphosarcoma. In fact, 25% of uveitis is due to neoplasia, and 78% of uveitis due to cancer is lymphosarcoma. Hemangiosarcoma, adenocarcinoma, and transmissible venereal tumors have also been reported to metastasize bilaterally to the anterior or posterior uvea.

Heather Kaese, DVM, MS, DACVIM, DACVO, Eye Care for Animals, Overland Park, Kansas.

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