Adjunctive cryotherapy for pigmentary keratitis in dogs: a study of 16 corneas




To assess whether soft cryotherapy (dimethylether, isobutene, and propane) can remove pigmentation of the cornea that has accumulated under different conditions when conventional therapy has been unsuccessful.

Animals studied

Nine dogs with unilateral or bilateral corneal pigmentation (16 eyes) were included based on progressive corneal pigmentation that was unresponsive to long-term etiological treatment. The dogs had keratoconjunctivitis sicca or chronic superficial keratitis.


A cryogen of 95% dimethylether, 3% isobutane, and 2% propane was applied to the pigmented areas of each cornea under anesthesia. Initial corneal pigmentation and changes were documented over the entire study period using a grading scheme and clinical photographs.


Most of the pigment deposits were gone by 5–15 days after cryosurgery. Postoperatively, the dogs showed some corneal edema and corneo-conjunctival inflammation, and three dogs had superficial corneal ulcers; these symptoms had resolved by 1 month after the procedure. Follow-up for more than 90 days was available in five dogs (nine corneas), and we observed total or partial repigmentation when the underlying disease was not controlled. A new cryotherapy procedure was successfully performed in two of these dogs.


Given the sensitivity to cold of melanocytes, cryotherapy is a viable adjunctive treatment for refractory severe corneal pigmentation. Etiological treatment remains necessary to prevent pigmentation from rapidly reappearing. Only a few dogs were followed for more than 90 days; further study is necessary to evaluate the long-term safety and efficacy of soft cryotherapy.