Uveodermatologic Syndrome is an autoimmune condition affecting the pigmented cells of the body, especially in highly pigmented organs like the eyes and skin. It is generally believed to be due to immune destruction of melanocytes, the pigment cells in the body. This condition is similar to a human condition known as Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada (VKH) syndrome and is often called VKH-like syndrome in dogs. The syndrome occurs most commonly in the Nordic breeds such as the Akita, Samoyed, Siberian Husky and Shetland Sheepdog, but can occur in any breed.
Clinical signs associated with this condition are due to progressive inﬂammation inside of the eye (known as uveitis). Ocular signs typically precede dermatological disease. Specific manifestations depend on the degree of inﬂammation, portion of the eye affected, and duration of the disease. Squinting, light sensitivity, and inﬂammation of the pink tissues surrounding the eye may be the first signs of the disease. Severe inﬂammation will ensue inside the eye and retinal detachments resulting in sudden vision loss are not uncommon. Progressive loss of pigmentation in the skin and hair (especially around the eyelids, nose, mouth, footpads, and perianal regions) can be noted. Over time, patients can develop skin infections and severe uveitis. Uveitis can lead to cataracts (lens opacity), scarring inside the eye, glaucoma (increased pressure inside the eye) and retinal detachments. These complications are devastating to the eye and result in blindness.
Treatment of the primary disease requires various drugs to suppress the overactive immune system. Symptomatic treatment is also initiated to treat the eyes and skin until the primary disease can be controlled. Initial treatment will likely be aggressive and frequent medications will be required. Medications will be tapered over time as the disease is controlled. Patients remain on long-term immunosuppressive therapy to control this autoimmune disease. Periodic blood testing is recommended to monitor these patients’ overall health and regular ocular examinations are also recommended to ensure good ocular health and control of this potentially blinding disease.