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Metaherpetic corneal disease in a dog associated with partial limbal stem cell deficiency and neurotrophic keratitis


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E. C. Ledbetter
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Objective  To describe clinical, in vivo confocal microscopic, histopathologic, and immunohistochemical features of a dog with metaherpetic corneal disease that developed subsequent to a protracted episode of canine herpesvirus-1 (CHV-1) dendritic ulcerative keratitis.

Case description  A 7-year-old, spayed-female, Miniature Schnauzer was treated for bilateral CHV-1 dendritic ulcerative keratitis. Following resolution of ulcerative keratitis, sectoral peripheral superficial corneal gray opacification, vascularization, and pigmentation slowly migrated centripetally to the axial cornea of both eyes. Corneal sensitivity measured with a Cochet–Bonnet esthesiometer was dramatically and persistently reduced. In vivo corneal confocal microscopic examination revealed regions of epithelium with a conjunctival phenotype. In these areas, the surface epithelium was thin, disorganized, and composed of hyper-reflective epithelial cells. Goblet cells and Langerhans cells were frequent, and the subbasal nerve plexus was completely absent or markedly diminished. Histopathologic abnormalities in the globes were restricted to the superficial cornea and included sectoral corneal conjunctivalization, increased anterior stromal spindle cells, and vascularization. Immunohistochemical evaluation of the corneas with anti-neurotublin antibody demonstrated attenuation of the epithelial and subbasal nerve plexuses with marked stromal hyperinnervation and increased numbers of morphologically abnormal neurites.

Conclusions  Similar to herpes simplex virus keratitis in humans, CHV-1 ulcerative keratitis may be associated with the development of chronic degenerative corneal disease in dogs. In the described dog, this chronic corneal disease included progressive corneal opacification because of partial limbal stem cell deficiency and neurotrophic keratitis. Long-term monitoring of dogs following resolution of active CHV-1 keratitis may be indicated, particularly when ulcerations persist for an extended period.

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