Vision loss in canines may occur for any reasons, including dry eye in dogs. It is a distressing situation, which can be prevented and minimised by spotting early manifestation of signs and symptoms. Cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinol atrophy (PRA), along with dry eye are amongst common eye complications that may lead to visual impairment in dogs when left untreated.
Dry eye disease is said to manifest in 1 in 22 dogs in the UK. However, there are particular breeds that have a higher risk than others. This is due to the autoimmune disease found that is likely to attack their tear glands. Predisposed breeds include:
- English cocker spaniel
- Cavalier King Charles spaniel
- Shih Tzu
- West Highland white terrier
Ophthalmologists often remind owners of susceptible breeds to schedule eye checkups for their furry companion. This guarantees treatment to be effective when conducted as early as possible.
Dry eye syndrome in dogs
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is often referred to as dry eye, which is an ocular condition usually affecting dogs rather than other pet animals. The medical term ‘keratoconjunctivitis’ means the inflammation or swelling of the cornea and the surrounding tissues. This is due to the inadequate quantity and quality of tears. Tear glands complication disrupts tear production, causing dry eyes. The worst thing is that the damage is often irreversible.
Importance of natural tears
Natural tears play a vital role in different ways.
- They contain important nutrients and oxygen.
- They help in lubrication and cleansing of the eyes.
- They aid in defence against infection.
Without tear production, it leads to very dry eyes and uneasiness in the eyes.
Is dry eye in dogs painful?
Unfortunately, this condition is painful to canines, and when left untreated, it leads to permanent blindness.
Is dry eye in dogs contagious?
Dry eyes lead to conjunctivitis in dogs or the ‘pink eye.’ There are three types of conjunctivitis:
- Allergic conjunctivitis (not contagious)
- Bacterial conjunctivitis (very contagious)
- Viral conjunctivitis (very contagious)
Dry eye: clinical signs and symptoms
What are the symptoms of dry eye in dogs? It may manifest in different appearances depending on the severity. That being said, it is hard to diagnose dry eye in dogs by merely looking at the eyes.
With both eyes affected, one may appear worse than the other. Watch out for the following:
- A white or yellow discharge
- Having a discoloured eye (red)
- It appears sticky
- Pain or discomfort (excessive squinting and rubbing of the eyes)
- Pigment patches or cloudy eyes
Causes of dry eye in dogs
What causes dry eye in dogs? Generally, any complications affecting the ability in producing adequate tear films can lead to dry eye. There are several possible causes of dry eye in dogs. The most common is caused by the autoimmune disease, which means the immune system is attacking its own tear-producing glands. Here are some of the other common causes:
- Drug reaction
- Effect from surgical removal of the third eyelid
- Injuries affecting the tear glands, including infections or trauma
- Nerve damage, which includes inflammation, infection, or cancer damages
- Systemic eye infections, including chlamydia infections or herpes virus
Treatment of dry eye in dogs
Unfortunately, a cure for dry eye is rare. Majority of the affected dogs may need to apply medical treatment from the prescribed drops by the vet for the rest of his life. Such treatment may aid in making the disease less responsive with time. In most cases, severe dry eye syndrome 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 options for treatment, which can either be through medical therapy or surgical procedure. According to Doctor Gilger, taken from an American Veterinarian article, “Mild tear deficiencies can usually be well managed with an OTC lubricant, or artificial tears.”
To medically manage dry eye in dogs, it involves:
- Tear stimulants
It can be provided in two categories:Cholinergic agents (Pilocarpine) – This is usually used when a neurological disease is involved. It can be taken topically or orally but may have side effects such as diarrhoea, vomiting, and salivation. Medication should be taken with vet’s assistance.Immunomodulating agents (Cyclosporine and Tacrolimus) – The most commonly prescribed prescription may lead to lesser chances of squinting, redness, and the ocular discharge.
- Tear substitutes
It can be prescribed as an ointment, gel, and viscous drops. In fact, there are many products that 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 the 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 the ocular inflammation, corneal opacities, as well as reducing pain and discomfort.
This usually administered when medicinal treatment, even with tear replacement therapy, fails. 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, surgical operation is now discouraged, for when the dog sights delicious treats, the eye may heavily water.
Dry eye treatments should be administered with the help and prescription from your vet. Take all conditions with a vet consultation.