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Dry Eyes in Dogs
Dry eye in dogs sounds like an innocent condition, but if it is left untreated, it can cause severe damage to your dog’s eyes. If it can develop into nerve damage in their eyes, painful corneal ulcerations, or something much worse, severe scarring. Once the scarring takes place, it can lead to the ultimate eye damage; blindness.
What is it?
This condition is referred to by another name; Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or KCS. This is a Latin term that basically describes a condition that causes the lack of tear production in your dog’s eye, which then results in the eyes becoming very dry. This condition may be the result of some type of an injury that has occurred to your dogs tear glands, or damage to the nerves of these glands. Eye infections as well as reactions to certain drugs, especially sulfonamides, may also be the cause. Sulfonamide drugs are used primary to treat bacterial infections as they inhibit the growth of bacteria.
There have also been some reported cases where the gland of your dogs third eyelid that may have been removed in a surgery by error, has caused this condition. It is also widely held that it may also be caused by some type of immune reaction within your dog’s glands that produce the tears. However, in the vast majority of cases, the actual cause is never known. But there is one thing that is fully understood with this eye condition; it can do severe damage if it is not treated.
Dry eye in dogs can affect any breed at any age, but like most conditions or diseases in dogs, there are some breeds that seem to be more predisposed than others. The breeds prone to this condition include Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, America Cocker spaniels, and West Highland white terriers. English bulldogs, Pugs, as well as Shih Tzu are also more commonly affected.
There some very distinctive symptoms and signs that dry eye in dogs will show you, but it is very helpful to understand what happens with this condition. As the watery part of the tear film in your dog’s eyes diminishes, their eyes try to compensate in the only way their immune system understands; by making more mucous like material. When this occurs, their system will also react in the only way it understands when it is inflamed; the surface of the eye also stimulates production of more mucous. Because of this, the inflammation that occurs is secondary to the eyes starting to dry out.
The first set of signs to watch for with dry eyes is a slowly developing redness of your dog’s eyes. Once this starts, the next signs will be a thick, almost yellow-green discharge. This discharge is usually the most noticeable in the morning. This discharge is the result of infections, as the lack of bactericidal tears makes it possible for several types of bacterial organisms to become overgrown in the eyes. However, this situation is made ever worse as the lack of lubrication is now taking its toll. This allows for several types of allergen, including pollen and dust, to begin to accumulate in your dog’s eye.
As dry eye is progressing, you will begin to see the next sign; the development of film over your dogs cornea. As this increases, you will see the beginning stages of the last of the symptoms; decreased vision. If dry eye in dogs is left untreated by this point, your dog may lose their eyesight altogether.
Dry eye in dogs is very distinctive in the symptoms it shows as well as the damage it causes, but there are several other eye conditions that will closely resemble it. The first is a condition referred to as Conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is a syndrome caused by inflammation of your dog’s tissues that line the eyelids as well as cover their eye. It is perhaps better known by another name, pink eye. It is easy to distinguish between the two, as pink eye causes your dog to suddenly squint a lot; dry eye does not.
The next similar condition is referred to as Episclerokeratitis, which is also an inflammation, but it affects the cornea and the sclera which is the white part of the eye, or the outer shell. However, this condition is very uncommon. Dacryocystitis is another inflammation disease, and is also an infection in your dogs tear draining process. It causes the same type of yellowish and green discharge, but the difference is that it is found primarily in the inner corner of your dog eye, while the discharge in dry eye is will cover most of the eye.
The next similar condition is referred to as a corneal ulceration, which is an abrasion of the cornea in your dog. It also causes a discharge as well as red eyes, but there is one major difference. From the very onset of this condition, your dog’s eyes are extremely painful; with dry eye it only reaches this state as it intensifies.
Dry eye in dogs has several very effective treatments, and surgery is only used as a last resort. However, in the initial stages of any of the treatments, it should only be done by your veterinarian, and then once you take it over, you, will need to follow their directions exactly as prescribed. There will be three major objectives in the treatment process; to increase the tear production, apply artificial tears, as well as reducing the bacterial infection.
Because of this, it is extremely important for any owner to understand that the reduction of the bacterial infection is a key to successful treatment. If you apply the artificial tears without accomplishing the elimination of the bacteria, it could actually make it worse and could cause your dog to become totally blind.
The first form of treatment is the application of cyclosporine ointments twice a day. However, it can only be 0.2 percent strength.
There are some cases where one to two percent solutions may have to be used, but again, this should only be directed by your veterinarian as this higher dosage can only be used in very difficult situations. There is another reason why it is so very important to follow exact directions in the early stages; in most every case you will have to give it to your dog for the rest of their lives.
If the dry eye is considered to be moderate to severe, your veterinarian will generally use tear solutions and ointments in addition to the use of cyclosporine. The drops will help to regenerate the moisture in your dog’s eyes, and the ointments helps to lubricate the surface of their eye. This combination is absolutely critical in the early stages of this condition, as it can take several weeks for the cyclosporine ointments to work properly in these advanced cases.
In some of the more difficult cases, Corticosteroid drops or ointments may also be used, but only your veterinarian can make this call. Surgery is used as a last resort if nothing else is successful, and in most cases it will resolve the issue, but not in all cases.
Dry eyes in dogs can be an extremely dangerous situation for your dog. Watching for the symptoms very early is critical in preserving your dog eyesight, as well as the treatments. It is worth stating again that you should never try to treat your dog on your own with this condition. The bacteria must be killed and only a professional can make sure this happens, as treating it on your own is the worst thing you could do.
Last edited by Nonnie; 25-10-2010 at 07:49 AM.. Reason: Removed spam