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Akita Friends
VKH Forum - Definition and Treatment
by Jamie Haight, Bea Pitts, Bev Lewis, Dr. Sophia Kaluzniacki, Les Ray
Definition and

VKH Diary

Detecting Genes




Regarding Eyes


What it is and how it starts - the disease and the symptoms

Volt-Koyanagi-Harada's Disease, better known as VKH-Like Syndrome (VKH) is an auto-immune disease, named after Drs. Vogt, Koyanagi and Harada.In dogs it is known as UveoDermatological Syndrome (UDS) but because it's so like the human form it is referred to more often by the human equivalent VKH.

VKH is commonly found in many of the Northern breeds. It is auto-immune related, with hereditary implications. It is felt that any type of stress can trigger the disease. Symptoms are depigmentation, hair loss,and blindness. Sometimes there are no warnings, sometimes there are,like the depigmentation and conjunctivitis (whites of the eye, and rimgo red). Conjunctivitis will often be followed by a detached retina,which shows as a milky blue surface on the eye ball. This IS a medical emergency. Without treatment, blindness will follow. The dog suffers great pain.

It has also been reported that dogs have been known to lose their nails. The disease affects mucous membrane areas such as the eyelids,mouth, anus, vulva and sometime the pads of the dog's feet. There is a definite visible loss of pigmentation in these areas, often started by crustiness or blisters. The severity of the symptoms vary from dog to dog. An interesting point to note is that many dogs are often stricken at 18 to 20 months.

There is no cure, and there are no methods to test breeding stock for VKH.


This has been the hard part of this forum for me. There are no cut and dry answers for this part of it. I feel treatment, and living and caring for a dog with VKH go hand in hand, so this post will be brief, speaking of the typical medical treatments for this disease. One thing stood out to me throughout all of this - each dog is so different from the next, from severity of symptoms, reaction to treatment, quantities of meds needed - this is one tough disease!!

Once a dog is diagnosed with VKH, the dog is put on MASSIVE doses of steroids, both oral and topical. However, because each dog isdifferent, the amount of steroids, as well as the use (oral or topical) is different.

Since VKH is an auto-immune disease dogs are also put on auto-immune suppressants to try and shut the immune system down so the steroids can kick in. Once a dog is put on the suppressants the dog's system becomes open wide for all sorts of bacteria and viruses. The owner has to think twice about taking their companion anywhere - if they cut their foot, will they get infected, will they pick up some foreign bacteria on the walk?

The side effects of the medication are sometimes worse than the disease itself. Many dogs get an insatiable appetite and thirst. There could also be a noticeable change in the dog's personality. Also, because of the suppressants, dogs cannot get their vaccines. They get a low chemical tolerance, so the food preservatives are looked at, flea products as well as the vaccines.

Tomorrow, I will post exerts from Bea Pitt's diary, compiled by Les Ray. This will show you how one family coped, lived, cared and loved a VKH dog. I would also invite Shelly (Simon) Chase to explain how she and Nikea have lived with the disease. I would also invite Michelle Guzikto tell us her story. This is the best way to explain how to live andcare for a dog with VKH as everyone has a different story to tell.

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