Dry eye syndrome, which is also sometimes called Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS), is a relatively common condition that develops on dogs. This condition is more prevalent among small breeds of dogs, particularly Shih Tzus, West Highland White Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Bulldogs, and Lhasa Apsos.
As a dog owner, it is important to understand what dry eye syndrome is and the symptoms to recognize it so that you can seek the proper treatment for your dog as soon as possible. This helpful guide explains what dry eye syndrome is, as well as the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for this disease.
An Overview of Dry Eye Syndrome in Dogs
Dry eye syndrome develops due to a deficiency in the aqueous tear film that encloses the surface of the eye and in the skin that lines the eyelids. Due to this deficiency, the eyes become extremely dry.
There is some speculation that dry eye syndrome may be more prevalent in female dogs than males, and there is a much higher occurrence of this condition in small dog breeds. In addition to the breeds list above, Pugs, Samoyeds, Miniature Schnauzers, Boston Terriers, and Bloodhounds are more prone to develop dry eye syndrome.
Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome in Dogs
Learning to identify the symptoms of dry eye syndrome early will help you prevent your dog from experiencing discomfort and pain should he develop dry eye syndrome. One of the challenges of being a dog owner is that dogs are unable to communicate when they are feeling pain or are uncomfortable, so it is necessary to monitor your dog’s behaviors and the development of any alarming symptoms so that conditions can be diagnosed and treated early.
It is important to keep in mind that dry eye syndrome often affects both eyes, but one eye may appear to be more significantly impacted than the other. Below are a handful of the most common symptoms associated with dry eye syndrome in dogs.
- Excessive blinking
- Painful, red, and irritated eyes
- Holding eyes shut for long periods of time between blinking
- Corneal scarring (this may appear like a dark film covering the surface of the eye)
- The appearance of a third eyelid (prominent nictitans)
- The discharge of pus of mucus from the eye
- Swollen conjunctival blood vessels within the eye (may appear overly red)
- Changes in the appearance of the cornea due to changes in the blood cells, this may include pigmentation and ulceration
- Impaired vision or the complete loss of vision may occur in severe manifestations of dry eye syndrome
Causes of Canine Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome can stem from a number of causes depending upon the genetic composition of the dog as well as other environmental factors. If your dog develops dry eye syndrome, it is important to make an appointment with a licensed veterinarian to identify the underlying cause and select the correct treatment options. Some of the most common causes for dry eye syndrome in dogs include:
- Congenital disease
- Genetic predisposition
- Certain medications, including drugs that contain sulfa (sulphonamides)
- Certain types of systemic diseases, including canine distemper virus
- Immune-mediated diseases that cause damage to be inflicted upon the glands that product tears. This is one of the most commonly diagnosed causes of dry eye syndrome in dogs and is not well understood by veterinarians. Some veterinarians posit that this disease may be inherited. This condition causes the immune system of the dog to believe that the cells that produce a portion of the tear film need to be destroyed, which results in these cells being attacked and subsequent production of tear film cells reduced.
Treatment Options for Dry Eye Syndrome in Dogs
Treating dry eye syndrome is dual-focused on replacing the tear film and stimulating tear production. When these two aims are successfully accomplished, the cornea is protected. Veterinarians will typically prescribe an ophthalmic medication to stimulate tear production that must be placed in the eyes once or twice each day.
To replace tear film, vets will prescribe tear film replacement in addition to the tear production medication. Tear replacement is generally received every two to six hours depending upon the severity of the dry eye syndrome. In addition to these two treatment methods, some dogs may require anti-inflammatory medications or antibiotics. In order to determine the right treatment path for your dog, it is imperative that you visit a licensed veterinarian.