Eye diseases are one of the most common problems affecting German shepherds throughout their lives.
Proper eye care is essential in preventing and treating eye disease.
While some eye diseases can be inherited and genetic, others may be caused by allergies, vitamin deficiencies, poor diet, or injury.
If left untreated, they can lead to blindness and the dog’s death.
10 Most Common Eye Diseases in German Shepherd Dogs
- Pannus (Keratitis)
- Progressive Retinal Degeneration (PRD)
- Prolapsed Gland of the Third Eyelid (Cherry Eye)
- Retinal Dysplasia
- Keratoconjuctivitis Sicca (KCS)
- Corneal Dystrophy
- Lens luxation
Pannus is an immune-mediated and genetic predisposition disease of the eye that is seen most commonly in German shepherds.
It is also known as chronic superficial keratitis.
It begins with blood vessels growing from the conjunctiva into the cornea, which causes the cornea to become cloudy and pink.
Affected dogs experience recurring eye irritation, redness, difficulty seeing, and increased tearing.
The condition can cause blindness if left untreated.
Treatment includes topical corticosteroids or topical immunosuppressive drugs such as cyclosporine (Atopica) or tacrolimus (Protopic).
Surgical removal of the damaged cornea may be necessary if the eye becomes blind.
Progressive Retinal Degeneration (PRD)
Progressive retinal degeneration (PRD) is an inherited, degenerative disease of the retina in German Shepherds, results in loss of eyesight.
- PRD type 1 is a rare form of the disorder. Affected dogs display night blindness by 6 months of age, followed by loss of daytime vision by 1 year of age. The disease is ultimately fatal, although affected dogs may live for several years before going blind.
- PRD type 2 is the most common form of the disorder in German Shepherds. Affected dogs typically become night blind between 2 and 4 years of age and then progress to blindness over years or even decades. 
There is no treatment or cure for this condition; however, breeding practices can prevent the further spread of PRD.
If you have an affected dog, it is recommended that you do not breed them.
Prolapsed Gland of the Third Eyelid (Cherry Eye)
In this case, the third eyelid’s tear gland becomes inflamed and swollen; and becomes visible on your dog’s eye.
It is known as a prolapsed gland of the third eyelid.
It appears as a bright red mass with a fleshy appearance, and it is located on the inner corner of the eyes; this mass will resemble a “cherry,” hence the name cherry eye.
It may develop after injury or trauma to the head.
Cherry eye can occur in one or both eyes.
The treatment for cherry eye in a German shepherd dog is surgical.
The surgery is known as tarsorrhaphy, and it involves removing the glandular tissue causing the prolapse and repositioning it into its correct place back up into the socket.
It can be performed under a local anesthetic. 
The conjunctiva can become infected or inflamed in conjunctivitis.
Conjunctivitis is caused by allergy tends to occur seasonally, often during spring and summer when pollen counts are high.
German shepherd dog’s shows signs with conjunctivitis typically have red eyes with a greenish-yellow discharge.
The eyes may also be itchy, and your dog may rub or scratch its eyes or face with its paws. 
Treatment depends on the cause of the inflammation and may include antibiotics and medications to reduce pain or swelling.
Cyclosporine ointment used to treat conjunctivitis. 
German shepherd dogs have been known to get glaucoma, which causes the eye to become enlarged, painful, and sometimes blind.
Glaucoma is caused by an imbalance in the production of fluids in the eye.
It is a severe condition, and it can lead to eventual blindness.
In dogs with early-stage glaucoma, medication is prescribed to slow down fluid production and reduce pressure in the eye. 
One commonly prescribed medication for this disease is Timolol Maleate Eye Drops, which have been found to decrease intraocular pressure (IOP) and relieve pain.
Cataracts can be identified as cloudiness or opacity of the eye’s lens.
It is not painful, but it can block your dog’s vision and lead to blindness.
Many factors can cause cataracts in German Shepherds, including age, genetics, injury, infection, and diabetes.
It’s not inherited disease in GSD. 
Several supplements on the market may help slow the progression of cataracts in dogs, including antioxidants such as Vitamin E, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin, omega fatty acids, and DHA fish oil supplements.
Retinal dysplasia is a developmental abnormality of the retina at birth.
There are two types of retinal dysplasia: Focal and Generalized.
Focal retinal dysplasia is a small area of abnormal development that usually does not affect vision or cause symptoms; however, if the site is in the path of light rays focused on the retina, it can cause blurry vision.
Generalized retinal dysplasia occurs as small folds or rosettes within the retina.
There is no treatment for retinal dysplasia; however, affected German shepherd dog shows normal vision throughout his lifetime.
Keratoconjuctivitis Sicca (KCS)
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) is an autoimmune disease affecting the eyes of German Shepherd Dogs.
It is the inability of the tear glands in the eyes to produce and secrete tears.
With average tear production, the vision remains moist and comfortable.
In KCS, the cornea becomes dry, which causes a condition called keratitis that may lead to blindness if not treated.
It is a prevalent condition in older dogs but can also be seen in younger animals. 
The treatment includes:
- Topical antibiotics
- Artificial tears
- Systemic antibiotics
- Immune suppressants (Cyclosporine),
- Tear stimulants (Pilocarpine),
- Surgical repair of the tear ducts.
Corneal dystrophy is a hereditary defect that causes the cornea to thicken and become cloudy.
The opacity can be due to fatty, protein or calcium deposits that accumulate within the layers of the cornea.
The appearance of the eye is not affected and vision is generally normal.
The opacity can be either central, affecting both eyes, or it can affect one or both eyes, unilaterally (affecting one eye).
Corneal dystrophy is a painless condition that is usually diagnosed between 5-8 years of age.
Treatment includes ointment or gel application of lubricating agents and antibiotics, analgesics, and surgical correction of the cornea.
In dogs with lens luxation, the lens moves out of place or “luxates.”
In most cases, this occurs because of the weakening of the fibers that hold it in place.
Lens luxation is more common in German Shepherd Dogs than other breeds, and it can affect one or both eyes.
Affected dogs are usually middle-aged or older (4-12 years old).
Lens luxation can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired.
Congenital lens luxation often occurs due to an inherited condition called primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG).
Acquired lens luxation usually occurs as a secondary complication of other diseases such as cataracts, diabetes mellitus, or uveitis (inflammation inside the eye). 
How Could You Prevent Eye Diseases in German shepherd Dogs?
There is no known way to prevent inherited eye diseases, but German Shepherd Dogs can be screened for several reasons;
- Determine Risk Factors
- Breeding Plan
- Regular Vet Examination
- Direct Sunlight
- Commercial Diet
Research the effects of the particular inherited eye disease in German Shepherds and learn about the treatment options.
Determine your dog’s risk factor for inheriting the eye disease based on his parents’ health histories, especially if you have proof that there was no history of this disease in either parent.
Choose a stud dog that does not have any history of inherited eye disease genetically unrelated to your female German shepherd if you are planning to breed.
Regular Vet Examination
Take your dog to the vet for an annual eye exam, especially if German shepherd shows any signs of vision loss or squinting.
Examine your dog’s eyes daily for any sign of discharge.
If there is persistent discharge that won’t go away with a warm washcloth, take your German shepherd to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
It could be a sign that he has an infection or injury to the eye.
Your German shepherd must spayed/neutered to prevent passing on the inherited eye disease in German Shepherds to future generations.
Allow your German shepherd adequate time in direct sunlight each day. Sunlight can boost vitamin D production in the body, which helps prevent problems like PRA (progressive retinal atrophy).
Feed your dog a high-quality commercial food that contains plenty of protein and fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6.
These nutrients help protect against eye disease and other health problems in dogs.
German shepherd dogs are prone to several eye diseases, including Pannus (Keratitis),
Progressive Retinal Degeneration (PRD), Prolapsed Gland of the Third Eyelid (Cherry Eye), Conjunctivitis, Glaucoma, Cataracts, Retinal Dysplasia, Keratoconjuctivitis Sicca (KCS), Corneal Dysplasia and Lens luxation.
Some of these problems are managed with medication or surgery if discovered early enough.
It’s essential to diagnose any eye disease as soon as possible to avoid complications.
Keep your German Shepherd’s eyes clean and pay attention to medical symptoms that may be signs of severe eye disease.