According to MSD Animal Health, an animal health company, 1 out of every 22 canines is afflicted by dry eye. Also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), this eye disorder is common in dogs but rarely afflicts other animals. Should you be alarmed if your furry companion has dry eye? Read on to learn the causes, symptoms, and treatments of dry eye in dogs.
What is dry eye in dogs?
Dry eye in dogs is a condition that disrupts the ability to make sufficient amounts of tears. This condition hinders the eyes from producing tears. It also affects other important optical functions, such as:
- Managing the surface of the eye’s moisture.
This avoids the epithelial cells, which stops water, dust, and bacteria from entering the eyes, from drying up and becoming impaired.
- Discarding the cornea’s waste products.
Through the fluid substance in the eyes, the cornea’s by-products are washed away.
- Eradicating foreign bodies that are threatening to enter the surface.
This is done with the help of the eyes’ natural ability to blink, which clears the ocular surface from any foreign body and brings in new tears.
- Controlling the cornea’s fluid arching surface.
This is to make sure that the eye can see correctly.
What causes dry eye in dogs?
Generally, any complications affecting the ability to producing adequate tear films can lead to dry eye. There are several possible causes of dry eye in dogs, including:
- Neurologic deficiency
It can result in the pooch’s brain going haywire, which may negatively affect the function of the dog’s other body parts. Neurological disorders might disturb the natural behaviour of lacrimal glands, which leads to dry eye in dogs.
- Autoimmune disease
Dry eye in dogs can be generated by an immune-mediated disease. It causes the canine’s very own immune system to assault and damage the glands, which produces tears surrounding the eyes.
The production of tears coming from the tear ducts will be labelled as an intrusive bacterium by the pooch’s body. Then the immune system will eradicate and shut down the tear production of the canine’s eyes.
- Old age
When dogs continue to age, their lacrimal glands also continue to shrink. Therefore, the aqueous substance stored within it gets lesser and lesser as canines grow older.
- Drug toxicity
Some pet owners are prescribed by their vets to use sulfa drugs or sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim drugs to treat their pooches with infections. One side effect that this drug may cause is dry eye syndrome.
- Third eyelid removal
In some cases, there is a need to remove their third eyelid because it is protruding surgically. It is also known as ‘‘cherry eye.’
Is dry eye in dogs hereditary?
Yes, it is. Some certain breeds of dogs have abnormally small or, worse, non-existent lacrimal glands, which is the primary contributor to the tear film’s aqueous layer.
The following are common dog breeds that are prone to developing dry eye through genetics:
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Cocker Spaniel
- Lhasa Apso
- Shih Tzu
- West Highland White Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier
Is dry eye in dogs contagious?
Dry eye itself is not infectious. However, it can lead to conjunctivitis in dogs or the ‘pink eye.’ There are 3 types of conjunctivitis:
- Allergic conjunctivitis (not contagious)
- Bacterial conjunctivitis (very contagious)
- Viral conjunctivitis (very contagious)
Symptoms of dry eye in dogs
One can figure out the early signs of dry eye in dogs by observing the colour of mucous production on their eyes. Normal mucous production is characterised by a white-hued secretion of mucus.
But some cases of dry eye in dogs cause yellow or yellowish-green mucous production. Other symptoms of this optical disorder include:
- Discoloured eye (red)
- Affected eye appears sticky
- Pigment patches or cloudy eyes
- Constant squinting
- Reddening of the area surrounding the eyes
- Too much blinking
- Eye surface contains a brownish tinge
- Excessive rubbing of the eyes
If dry eye is left untreated, it can lead to further permanent damage to the canine’s cornea. The long-term effect of severe dry eye in dogs is permanent blindness.
Negative effects of dry eye in dogs
The drastic effects of dry eye in dogs are no laughing matter. It can cause eye inflammation and scratch the corneal surface or corneal ulceration. This is a painful condition that can drain the canine’s spirit and exhaust him mentally and physically.
Dry eye in dogs can lead to more health and behavioural issues such as:
- Anxiety and depression
- Loss of interest in the activities that he usually enjoys
- Reduced reciprocation towards acts of affection
- Insecure and afraid of his surroundings
The most heartbreaking aftermath of dry eye in dogs is that some pooches with this condition end up in animal shelters and foster homes. This is because their owners are unable to meet the costly demands to cure the eye condition that their dog is suffering from.
Diagnosis of dry eye in dogs
Schirmer tear test (STT) is one of the most common and proven accurate methods to know whether your dog has dry eye.
A strip of small treated paper is used in this test. The package has 2 sterile paper strips that are meant for each eye. The strip is placed between the lower eyelid and cornea of the canine. STT measures reflex tear response and tears production.
The normal value for a dog’s tear production is greater than or equal to 15 mm wetting/minute. On the other hand, 10 to 15 mm wetting/minute is thought-out borderline for dry eye in dogs, whilst less than 10 mm wetting/minute result is considered positive.
Can dry eye heal itself?
No, dry eye in dogs will not heal itself. The condition needs to be treated preferably at its early stage to keep it from exacerbating. ‘Is dry eye in dogs permanent?’ and ‘How long does dry eye last in dogs?’ are other common questions about this optical disorder.
Unfortunately, it is a lifelong condition that needs lifelong treatment. Otherwise, new blood vessels will develop on the surface of the affected eye. This will result in the formation of dark pigmentation, which can lead to permanent blindness.
How do you treat dry eye in dogs?
Is dry eye in dogs curable?
There is no definitive cure for dry eye, but it can be managed through lifetime treatment. In most cases, severe dry eye in dogs needs long-term care from both the owner and the vet. As such, early detection is very important for early medication and treatment.
Fortunately, there are different dry eye treatments for dogs, either through medical therapy or surgical procedures. The primary aim of the treatment is to stimulate the tear glands to produce more tears. To medically manage dry eye in dogs, it involves:
Tear stimulants can activate the natural production of tears in the eyes of the pooch whilst simultaneously lessening the inflammation. The medication is commonly administered 2–3 times a day.It can be provided in 2 categories:
Cholinergic agents (Pilocarpine) – This is usually used when a neurological disease is involved. It can be taken topically or orally. But there may have side effects such as diarrhoea, vomiting, and salivation. Medication should be taken with the vet’s assistance.
Immunomodulating agents (Cyclosporine and Tacrolimus) – The most commonly prescribed prescription may lead to lesser chances of squinting, redness, and ocular discharge.
2. Tear substitutes
This is also called artificial tears. This type of treatment in the dry eye in dogs can be prescribed as an ointment, gel, and viscous drops. In fact, many products provide tear replacement. The prescription may vary based on the availability, preference, budget, and the specific medication needed.
Dry eye usually leads to secondary bacterial conjunctivitis due to the lack of debris removal and lack of tears that produce natural antimicrobial properties. This type of medication is given to those with improved tear production, but chronic discharge remains.
Administering topical anti-inflammatories or a combination of both anti-inflammatory and antibiotic is helpful with ocular inflammation, corneal opacities, as well as reducing pain and discomfort.
5. Parotid duct transposition (PDT) surgery
This usually administered when medicinal treatment, even with tear replacement therapy, fail. Surgical procedures aim to reroute the duct from the parotid salivary gland into the eye.
This means, instead of the presence of saliva from the mouth, it gathers into the eye. However, dry eye surgical operation is now discouraged, for when the dog sights delicious treats, the eye may heavily water.
Depending on the vet clinic of your choice, dog dry eye surgery cost can range from £1,000 to over £2,500. Having pet insurance will help you cut down expenses and save money.
Note that dry eye treatments and supplements for dry eye in dogs should be administered with a prescription from your vet. Take all conditions with a vet consultation.
Can you use human eye drops for dry eyes in dogs?
The answer is no. Medications that are meant for humans are not suitable for dogs. These may contain substances that are safe for humans but harmful to pooches. Thus, never administer human eye drops on your pooch as it can damage his eyes and cause blindness.
Dog dry eye home remedy
There are few natural home remedies that can alleviate dry eye in dogs. However, since the condition is a chronic optical disorder, you need the guidance of a holistic vet. Here are a few home remedies that you can try:
Cod Liver Eye Drops and Supplement
The vet may advise you to put 2 drops of cod liver oil to your dog’s eyes for lubrication. It can also be used as a supplement for his diet. The recommended amount is 1/8 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight.
Herbal Eye Wash
This natural remedy will flush out dirt from your dog’s eye and prevent bacteria from spreading. To create a herbal eyewash, here’s what you should do:
Step 1: Place ¼ teaspoon of salt inside a cup of boiled distilled water.
Step 2: Stir until the salt completely dissolves.
Step 3: Let the water cool down.
Step 4: Add 10 drops of herb tincture to the water. It is preferable if the herb tincture is made up of calendula, echinacea, eyebright, or St. John’s wort.
Step 5: Soak clean cotton or cloth in the solution and wipe it gently on your dog’s eyes. You can also place a few drops in his eyes to keep ease the inflammation and other symptoms of dry eye.