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Pug laying in dog bed on the floor

Signs of chronic eye inflammation

Q: Our pug, Gertie, has a black film across the lower inside corner of each eye. Do we need to do anything about this?

A: Yes. Gertie probably has pigmentary keratitis, a common and painful condition seen in pugs and other brachycephalic (short-faced) dogs. “Kerato-“ refers to the cornea, the clear covering of the eye, and “-itis” is Greek for inflammation. So, pigmentary keratitis is inflammation of the surface of the eye with deposition of black pigment, a sign of chronic irritation.

Pugs are susceptible to three disorders that give rise to pigmentary keratitis:

  • Because of the pug’s flat face, the nasal folds sometimes rub against the eyes. The dark pigment often starts like Gertie’s and then spreads across the entire eye, causing blindness.
  • Misdirected eyelashes also can irritate the cornea and cause pigment to be deposited on it.
  • Dry eye, or KCS, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (“sicca” is Latin for dry), occurs when the tear glands don’t produce enough tears. Each blink of the eyelids feels like sandpaper scraping across the sensitive cornea and conjunctiva.

All of these disorders are common in pugs, cause the black film you are seeing on the surface of Gertie’s eyes, and are painful.

Make an appointment today with Gertie’s veterinarian, who can tell you the cause(s) of her pigmentary keratitis and how it should be treated to save her sight.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com.

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