Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) commonly referred to as ‘dry eye’ is one of the most frequently diagnosed eye conditions in our canine patients.
One in twenty two of all dogs in the UK is affected by dry eye. In some of the ‘at risk’ breeds, such as the West Highland White Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, Yorkshire Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Shih Tzu, Bulldog, Pug, Lhasa Apso and Pekinese, this figure almost doubles.
Progressive destruction of the tear glands over months or even years causes a reduction, and eventual cessation, of tear production in affected individuals. Tears function is to keep the surface of the eyes moist. Tears also serve to flush away dust and debris which land on the eye, and to provide nutrients and oxygen and to help prevent eye infections. In patients with dry eye, signs can be varied and subtle in the early stages. These signs include recurrent conjunctivitis (Inflammation and infection); recurrent central corneal (eye surface) ulceration; persistent sticky grey discharge in the corners of the eyes; increased blinking,squinting, or rubbing the eyes; and a lacklustre appearance to the eye surface. As the condition progresses and the tear production decreases further, the symptoms become more severe to include red sore eyes which have a persistent sticky yellow discharge; a dull or even cloudy appearance to the eye surface; and blood vessel growth onto the cornea. Eventually, tear production ceases completely. Ultimately, dogs will become completely blind due to scarring and dark pigmentation on the surface of the eyes. This is a painful condition for affected patients. Fortunately it can be diagnosed quickly and simply, and in the majority of patients it can be managed successfully.
The Schirmer Tear Test is a very quick and well-tolerated screening test of tear production and we offer it at all of our branches. A test strip of filter paper is placed under the lower eyelid and supported there for 60 seconds. The tear production during that minute is then measured against a scale and the results are available immediately.
Dry eye is a lifelong condition requiring lifelong treatment. Our aims of medication are to relieve discomfort, resolve clinical signs and ultimately preserve vision. Treatment is most successful when started early in the course of the disease, before significant amounts of tear gland tissue is destroyed and before any permanent changes to the surface of the eye are apparent.
Here at Charter Veterinary Hospital Group we recommend screening susceptible breeds every 6 months to ensure early detection of the disease.