What Is Dry Eye in Dogs?
Dry eye in dogs (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca or KCS) is an eye condition that manifests with low tear production or decreased tear film quality.
Normally, the tear film is made in the lacrimal glands and the tear gland in the third eyelid. Tear film contains three components – mucus, water, and fatty liquid. This film is necessary as it lubricates the dog’s eyes and nourishes the cornea. They also help get rid of eye debris and infectious agents.
How does a Dog Get Dry Eye?
Dry eye in dogs develops when the tear production decreases or some of the components in the tear film are lacking or low. Basically, any condition that affects the tear production may result in dry eye syndrome.
Here are some of the most common causes of dry eyes in dogs:
- Congenital Diseases. Some puppies are born with defects affecting the tear glands and tear ducts which causes dry eyes. For example, the tear glands can be absent, and the tear ducts too small.
- Immune-Mediated Conditions. This is the most common cause of dry eyes, and sadly, it is poorly understood. Namely, the dog’s immune system attacks the cells responsible for tear production. However, the reason for this autoimmune destruction is unknown.
- Endocrine Imbalances. Endocrine diseases can also result in dry eyes. Such diseases include hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, and Cushing’s disease.
- Infectious or Systemic Diseases. Some infectious conditions can trigger dry eye in dogs. A common example is the canine distemper virus.
- Neurologic Deficiency. Certain neurological disorders may trigger damage in the nerve that innervates the eye, which will result in decreased tear production and eye dryness.
- Medication Side Effect. Finally, dry eye can be the result of drug toxicity or the side effect of radiation therapy (if the radiated area is close to the eye). It can also be the result of incorrect cherry eye surgery, in which the third eyelid is removed instead of repositioned.
With that being said, it is important to note that dry eye in dogs is more common in certain breeds, which indicates a genetic component. Breeds prone to dry eye syndrome are Pugs, Cocker Spaniels, Lhasa Apso, English Bulldogs, Yorkshire Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Boston Terriers, Miniature Schnauzer, Pekingese, Samoyed, Shih Tzu, Bloodhounds, English Springer Spaniel, and American Cocker Spaniel.
Are Dry Eyes Painful in Dogs?
Yes, without tears, your dog’s eye loses its lubrication.
This leaves the eye irritated, inflamed, infected, and even ulcerated. These can be extremely painful for your dog, cause them discomfort, and impact their quality of life.
Can Dry Eyes in Dogs Lead to Blindness?
Yes, dry eye in dogs can lead to blindness.
One in 22 dogs will develop canine dry eye syndrome. If not properly treated, your dog’s eyes can be significantly damaged, leading to loss of vision.
How Can You Tell if Your Dog Has Dry Eyes?
Dry eye in dogs results in irritated eyes covered with mucoid discharge. Here is a closer look at the symptoms of dry eye:
- Red Eyes. Red, inflamed, irritated, and painful eye is the first symptom in most cases. This is also called cherry eye. The dryness of the eye is also present and striking.
- Blinking and Squinting. A dog with dry eyes will either blink frequently or squint a lot. This is triggered by pain and discomfort, as well as light sensitivity.
- Eye Discharge. When the production of the aqueous part of the tears decreases, the dog is likely to form yellowish, thick, and mucoid discharge.
- Corneal Ulcers. Chronic dry eye in dogs results in corneal ulcers (deep and painful defects in the cornea), that impair vision and, in severe cases, may result in vision loss.
How is Dry Eye in Dogs Diagnosed?
To diagnose the problem, the vet will refer to the dog’s medical history, clinical signs and symptoms of dry eye, and tests for decreased tear production (known as the Schirmer tear test or STT).
Depending on the situation, the vet may order additional diagnostic tests, such as corneal staining, to check for corneal ulcers.
How do You Treat Dry Eye in Dogs?
The treatment of dry eye in dogs has two objectives – to promote tear production and replace the tear film. Meds like cyclosporine (Optimmune) and tacrolimus stimulate tear production. Pilocarpine can be used to stimulate tear production in dogs with neurologically triggered dry eye syndrome.
In some cases, the veterinary ophthalmologist may suggest surgery – in which they will re-route the dog’s salivary gland into the tear duct, thus ensuring proper eye lubrication. The medical term for this procedure is parotid duct transposition.
Also, during the treatment, the risk of conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva) as a result of secondary bacterial infections is high. To reduce the risk, the vet may prescribe antibiotic drops or ointments.
As for replacing the tear film and keeping the eye lubricated, there are many dog eye solutions and washers. Here is a closer look at those products.
Vets Preferred Eye Wash Drops for Infection & Tear Stain Remover. Keep your dog’s eyes clear and healthy year-round with this mild dog eye wash. The antibacterial formula is suitable for daily use, as well as urgent cases.
Use the dog eye drops rinse to relieve allergy symptoms, rinse out dirt, and moisturize dry eyes. Foreign particles like pollen, dust, and dirt can lead to chronic irritation and infections. Rinse your dog’s eyes with the dog eye cleaner to relieve itchiness and keep your dog’s eyes free of debris.
Use the tear stain remover for dogs regularly to relieve tear stains, as well as to break and dissolve crust and discharge. Pet owners give this product for dry eye in dogs, 4.4 out of 5 stars.
Nutrition Strength Eye Care for Dogs Daily Vision Supplement. This eye care supplement for dogs provides a complete formula for canines of all ages to support their eyesight. It is formulated with essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients and supports the nutritional needs of your dogs and their eyes.
The supplement is formulated with various essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that offer a wide range of benefits. It improves the tear film on the surface of the eye.
These tablets can be mixed with the dog’s food or given separately. The product supports the nutritional needs of your dogs and their eyes. Pet owners give this product for dry eye in dogs, 4.2 out of 5 stars.
I-DROP VET PLUS Lubricating Eye Drops for Pets. This is a lubricating solution that brings immediate and lasting hydration and lubrication with every blink to companion animals suffering from acute or seasonal dry eyes.
It continually refreshes and stabilizes the tear film, providing superior comfort with fewer applications. Easy to use squeeze bottle features a sophisticated one-way valve, delivering one dosed drop at a time. The unique tip ensures the sterile delivery of each drop.
This product contains viscoadaptive biopolymers and is packaged in a 10-mL sterile, multidose, delivery system. Pet owners give this product for dry eye in dogs 4.6 out of 5 stars.
Sentrx Animal Care Ocunovis BioHAnce Gel Eye Drops Artificial Tears for Dogs. Ocunovis is tailored for easy application with its “not too thick, not too watery” consistency. These gel eye drops are easy to control and accurately dispense and will not leave a sticky glob on your pet’s eye.
Ocunovis creates a sheer thin layer that doesn’t blur like thick and viscous eye drops that might make your pet uncomfortable.
Each gel drop provides a sheer coating that protects and hydrates the eye surface with every blink. Pet owners give this product for dry eye in dogs, 4.4 out of 5 stars.
Will Dry Eyes Heal on Its Own?
It depends on the underlying cause. However, as a general rule of thumb, it is important to see a vet when dealing with dry eye in dogs. The vet may refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist.
Eye conditions have the tendency to worsen quickly and may have permanent consequences. A vet will perform an ophthalmic exam to determine the underlying cause and offer treatment options – eye drops, artificial tears, and medications.
What Happens if Dry Eye is not Treated?
If left untreated, dry eye in dogs may result in corneal scarring – also known as hyperpigmentation. This increase in pigmentation is readily visible and looks like a dark film covering the dog’s eyes. On a closer look, you can even see the small blood vessels across the cornea.
Dogs with corneal scarring are likely to experience vision reduction. In more severe cases, this can lead to vision impairment and even vision loss.