Dry Eye is quite common and is due to a deficiency in tear production by a gland in the eye and leads to the eye drying out. It can affect one or both eyes and can develop at any age, although dogs over 7 are more commonly affected.
Early signs are not always apparent and although it can affect any breed of dog, the more susceptible breeds including Bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Pugs, Pekinese, West Highland White Terriersand Cock Spaniels.
Signs to look out for include:
• eyes red and inflamed
• rubbing the eyes, blinking excesssively or keeping the eyes closed
• a thick, yellow-green discharge which can build up in he corner or over the surface of the eye
• recurrent eye infections
• red or cloudy looking eyes
The condition is very painful and a potential cause of permanent blindness.
If you are worried that your dog has dry eye, it can be easily diagnosed by your vet. A small strip of special filter paper is placed in the dog’s eye and the tear production is measured for 60 seconds. If the tear production is not sufficient then dry eye is confirmed.
The treatment for dry eye is a special ointment. Initially, this needs to be applied twice daily but can in many cases be reduced to once daily. Your vet will show you how to do this. The ointment is a medication called a cyclosporin, which helps the tear gland become active again. The ointment is normally very effective and once stable, the condition can be kept under control. Treatment will need to be given for life but the dog does not become tolerant of the medication and it is very safe. Artificial tears can also be used to help lubricate the eye but these are not usually sufficient to control the condition on their own.
If left untreated, dry eye can cause permanent damage to the eye. Due to the lack of lubrication, the top layer of the eye, the cornea, dries out and becomes inflamed. This is uncomfortable and can leave to more serious conditions such as an ulcer or inflammation to the internal structures of the eye or blindness. It is vital that any problem found with the eye is checked quickly with the vet. A sore eye can be anything from conjunctivitis to an ulcer. An ulcer can rapidly become very deep and can even lead to loss of the eye if not attended to.
Many different eye problems have very similar signs and you will need your vet to determine how serious a condition is.