Dry eye in dogs

1st January 2018

Dry eye, or Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS), is a condition we see in animals that have reduced tear production from the eye. The condition is often caused by the animal’s immune system damaging and interfering with the tear producing glands in the eye.

Some breeds of dog are particularly at risk, including Cocker Spaniels, Schnauzers and West Highland White Terriers, though all dogs and cats can be affected.

If tear production is reduced it doesn’t take long for the eye to become dry, sore and infected. The pink tissues around the eye (conjunctiva) become red and inflammed. The eye will also develop a thick, sticky yellow discharge.

Without treatment the cornea becomes damaged, cloudy and thickened and the animal can even become blind.

 

What are tears?

Tears are necessary to keep eyes healthy and protected from dust, infection and other irritants. They’re made of three main components - the lacrimal gland produces a watery substance, glands in our eyelids produce an oily component whilst other cells produce a mucus film. Together they create a protective layer that covers the eye, cornea, sclera (white of the eye) and conjunctiva.

 

4 warning signs of ‘dry eye’

  • Blinking more frequently - a dry eye is uncomfortable and the animal will keep trying to blink to lubricate the surface
  • Sore looking eyes – they have a particularly uncomfortable appearance. The sclera and conjunctiva will be red and puffy
  • Thick discharge - the yellow sticky discharge is particularly evident in the mornings
  • Rubbing eyes – an animal with eye discomfort from dry eye will often rub it’s head along carpets and furniture to try to alleviate the itchiness and discomfort

Fortunately this disease is easily diagnosed and can be treated effectively at home. If you notice any of the above symptoms, it’s really important you let us take a look.

If we suspect a patient has dry eye our vets will perform a short test in the consulting room to measure the tear production. This test is known as a Schirmer test and is a reliable indicator of ‘dry eye’.

Treatment usually involves applying an eye ointment once or twice a day. It’s effective and worth using as soon as the condition is diagnosed.

So if you are concerned about your dog’s eyes, make an appointment with one of our vets at Bollington Veterinary Centre and let us take a look.