What are Dry Eyes?
Dogs and cats often suffer from various eye problems. Dry eyes, also known as Kerato-conjunctivitis Sicca or KCS is a painful eye condition that describes when the glands of the eyes do not produce sufficient tears. In order for your pet’s eyes to be healthy and well lubricated, there are two glands for each eye which provide various components of tears.
If adequate amounts of tears are not produced, the eye becomes inflamed which results in scarring and pigmentation of the cornea. If left untreated, this may lead to reduced vision and eventually blindness.
Dry eye is more common in dogs than cats. It affects certain dog breeds such as Cocker Spaniels, English bulldogs, the Miniature Schnauzer, West Highland White Terrier and pugs.
The common symptoms and signs of dry eye include:
- Thick, green discharge
- Recurring eye infections or corneal ulcers
- Eyes may seem dull or dry
- Blinking eyes
- Reduced vision in predisposed breeds
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Dry eye may be caused by a number of factors and these include:
- Viral infections such as canine distemper
- Autoimmune conditions
- Herpes upper respiratory infection in cats
- Congenital defects
- Removal of the third eyelid tear producing gland
- Certain drugs such as medications containing sulfa
- Eye disease or trauma
Diagnosing Dry Eyes
If you suspect your pet has dry eye, your veterinarian will base the diagnosis on the symptoms presented, a thorough examination of the eyelids, conjunctiva and cornea as well as perform certain tests. These tests include a fluorescein stain test and Schirmer tear test. The fluorescein stain test is used to detect corneal ulcers while the Schirmer tear test which helps to measure tear production in the eye.
Help for Dry Eyes
Treatment to relieve dry eyes involves medications that will help to lubricate the eyes, stimulate tear production, replace tears, and reduce inflammation and infection. Medications for symptoms of dry eyes include immune-suppressing drugs such as Cyclosporin, topical antibiotic eye drops, artificial tear ointments and corticosteroids.
A surgical procedure may be performed where a duct from a gland producing saliva is transplanted into the upper lid to replace the aqueous portion of tears but this process seldom occurs.
Natural and holistic treatments such as herbal remedies have also proven to be highly beneficial promoting eye health. These remedies are safe and gentle for your pet’s eyes without any negative side effects.
A combination of herbal ingredients such as Arctium lappa (Burdock), Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary), Filipendula unmarried (Meadowsweet) and Chelidonium majus have cleansing and antiseptic properties while also supporting the functioning of the immune system.
More Information on Dry Eyes
Tips to maintain healthy eyes
There are certain steps that can be taken to ensure optimal eye health for pets and these include:
- Keep your pet’s head inside a moving vehicle and avoid letting its head hang out of the window as foreign substances can enter or become lodged in their eyes causing infection or injury
- Always keep the corners of your pet’s eyes clean and wipe away any discharge that may accumulate to prevent infection
- If your pet is prone to eye infections, check his eyes regularly
- Be careful when washing your dog or cat to not get any shampoo into the eyes
- Avoid exposing your pet’s eyes to irritants such as dust, pollutants or chemicals
- Try to keep your pet from harmful situations such as fights with other animals where he may get eye trauma.
- Trim the hair surrounding your pet’s eyes using blunt-nosed scissor to prevent bacteria from entering the eye area
- Ensure that your pet has an annual veterinary check-up which includes an eye examination