Indolent or Non-Healing Ulcers

What is an indolent or non-healing ulcer?

This is a common condition in dogs, especially Boxers. Indolent ulcers are superficial defects of the cornea that fail to heal after 10-14 days.

What is the cause of an indolent ulcer?

The cause is thought to be an abnormality of adherence of epithelium to the basement membrane and of the basement membrane itself. The epithelium cannot stick down to the underlying stroma of the cornea following a minor injury. The epithelium peels off and loose edges of epithelium are surrounding the lesion.

What are the clinical signs?

You will notice discomfort in the affected eye.  Signs of discomfort are: squinting, tearing, rubbing or pawing at the eye.

How is it diagnosed?

A veterinary ophthalmologist can often diagnose this condition based on your pets history and the appearance of the lesion. A special staining procedure (fluorescein) will show a green stain uptake in the area that is affected.

How is an indolent ulcer treated?

Most indolent ulcers require a minor surgical procedure to promote healing. This procedure can usually be done only with the use of anesthetic eye drops. If your pet is very excited, sedation may be necessary. A corneal debridement and a grid keratotomy may be performed. The abnormal loose epithelium is gently removed and the corneal surface is slightly scratched with a very fine needle. This roughens the underlying stroma and allows the epithelium to anchor and to heal. It is important to treat the eye with an antibiotic ointment or drop for approximately 2 weeks to prevent bacterial infection of the lesion. Sometimes it is necessary to repeat the procedure of the debridement and the grid keratotomy if the ulcer did not heal after the first procedure.

Will this problem recur?

Unfortunately it is likely that your dog will have a recurrence in either eye at a later date. If you notice any clinical signs of an indolent ulcer, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment to see your ophthalmologist.