Dry Eye can occur in dogs just as it may affect humans, in today’s veterinary blog, Dr. Amber Labelle, board certified veterinary ophthalmologist, offers a snapshot on diagnosis, symptoms, and treatments for this ailment.
WHAT IS DRY EYE? “Keratoconjunctivitis sicca” or “KCS” is the clinical term for dry eye and it is a common disease of dogs. Dogs with dry eye do not produce enough tears to keep the surface of the eye moist and healthy. Normal tears are very important for maintaining the health of the surface of the eye, and dry eye can result in both eye pain and vision loss.
For many dogs, dry eye is an immune-mediated disease, meaning the immune system is attacking the tear-producing glands of the eye. Other, less common causes include genetic defects, reactions to medication, chronic ear infections, and viral infections.
Dry eye is more common in certain breeds, including:
- Cocker Spaniel
- Shih Tzu
- Lhasa Apso
- Miniature Schnauzer
- West Highland White Terrier
The most important clinical sign of dry eye is mucous discharge from the eyes that is often yellow/green in color, sticky and needs to be cleaned from the eyes more than twice daily. Other signs include: decreased vision, squinting/holding the eyes closed, redness of the white of the eye (sclera), rubbing at the eyes and cloudiness of the surface of the eye.
HOW IS DRY EYE DIAGNOSED? The best way to diagnose dry eye is with a Schirmer tear test, which measures the amount of tears produced in one minute. This test can be repeated to evaluate if prescribed treatments are effective.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR DRY EYE? The goal is for the eye to return to making a normal amount of tears in order to keep the surface of the eye healthy. Typically, treatment with a tear-stimulant eye drop or ointment, administered 2-3 times daily, helps the dog make natural tears (unfortunately sad stories and sad movies just won’t work!). This type of medication can take several months to reach maximum efficacy. Often patients also need a lubricating ointment or gel. Treatment with the tear-stimulating medication will be necessary for life; if your dog stops taking this medication, the dry eye will reappear.
When tear-stimulant medication is not effective, a surgical procedure may be recommended to help replace the patient’s tears with saliva. However, medication alone is effective in the majority of cases.
If you notice an increase in your pet’s tearing, squinting, or discharge, it is always appropriate to consult your family veterinarian right away. If your veterinarian is unavailable, WestVet is open and able to address your concerns 24 hours a day. We offer the services of two board certified veterinary ophthalmologists to care for your pet’s eye health.