‘Dry-eye’ or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is a common condition which reduces and eventually stops tear production. 1 in 22 of all dogs is affected – this figure is even higher for some breeds. The four breeds most commonly affected in the UK are West Highland White Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel & Shih-Tzu – but any breed, at any age, can be affected.
The condition is almost always caused by destruction of the tear glands by the dog’s own immune system. Damage to the tear gland is irreversible, and eventually it is destroyed completely. This means the animal cannot produce enough tears. Dry-Eye is a painful and potentially blinding eye disease, and needs lifelong treatment.
Signs which could indicate Dry-Eye:
o Eyes red and inflamed
o Sore eyes – your dog may rub its eyes, blink excessively or keep the eyes closed
o Discharge from the eyes, seen in the corner or over the surface of the eye
o Dry looking eyes
o Pigment on the surface of the eye
o Frequent eye infection or ulceration (more than two per year)
Eventually these changes can lead to permanent blindness.
However, in many cases the eyes can look quite normal despite very low tear production, and ongoing destruction of the tear glands. For this reason, it is important to test dogs showing any of the signs above, and to test commonly affected breeds regularly. It is very important to diagnose the condition early, as treatments are less effective in advanced cases and fewer changes to the eye will have developed.
For example, both of the dogs shown below had tear measurements of 0mm in one minute, but they look very different.
Diagnosis of Dry-Eye is generally straight forward and is based on measuring tear production. This is a simple test involving placing a small strip of marked paper into the space behind the eyelid which does not require an anaesthetic and the results are available immediately.
How is Dry-Eye treated?
Your dog must have treatment for Dry-Eye for the rest of its life, to prevent discomfort and undesirable changes developing, including blindness. Regular check ups with your vet are an important part of this treatment.
Your vet may prescribe a treatment which prevents further autoimmune destruction of the tear glands (and so preserves their natural function of producing tears) and also increases the production of natural tears and reduces painful inflammation. Sometimes we use artificial tears and painkillers too.
If you think your dog is showing any of the signs above or may have Dry-Eye, book a check up now by phoning the practice on 01772 330103.
For further information visit www.dog-dry-eye.co.uk
(Photos courtesy of the Animal Health Trust.)