Another condition that seems to affect the German Shorthaired Pointer, though to a much lesser extent than others, is pannus (also known as chronic superficial keratitis), a corneal disease involving chronic inflammation, possibly brought on by an overly sensitive immune system. This disease mostly affects German Shepherds, though there are a handful of other breeds in which the condition occurs, the German Shorthaired Pointer being one of these. Exactly how the disease begins is unclear, though there is evidence that environmental factors may trigger its onset and influence how severe the disease gets; these factors include altitude and ultraviolet light.
Essentially, this is a progressive disease in which the cornea, or surface of the eye, conjunctiva and at times the third eyelids (this is called atypical pannus) of dogs becomes chronically inflamed; it does not seem to be a painful condition. The lower outside surface of the eye is typically the origin of any changes of the cornea and variations in pigmentation, cholesterol deposits, dry eye, and granulation tissue can all develop. More often than not, both eyes are affected, though there may be different regions that are diseased between the two eyes. It first appears as a grayish pink film that starts to spread across the dog's eyes and starts affecting vision. Your dog may present with redness and tearing. Blood vessels and pigmented cells grow into the cornea and the once clear structure turns opaque; thickening of the cornea follows. Unfortunately, progression of the disease could lead to total blindness; if left untreated, blindness can occur within a period of years or in as short a time as a few months.
What causes pannus is still shrouded in mystery, though scientists are almost certain that German Shorthaired Pointers have a genetic predisposition. It seems as if a weakened or abnormal immune system may also play a fundamental role in the development of the disease. The majority of dogs in which pannus develops are around middle age, but the disease has been known to occur in young adults. Dogs diagnosed with pannus must be put on life long therapy, usually consisting of steroid eye drops and/or ointments; pannus is not usually cured. Other medications may be added to prevent excessive scarring of the cornea and to modulate the immune system. At times, sub-conjunctival steroid injections may be done. On rare occasions, when medications fail to lead to any improvement in the condition, a veterinarian may suggest surgery and/or radiation treatment. Treatment is aimed at delaying or even preventing the loss of vision, or keeping as much vision as possible if there has already been some kind of visual impairment. Treatment will not be as effective in dogs that live at high altitudes or that are constantly exposed to the sun's ultraviolet radiation.