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Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca KCS)

Information for owners:

‘Dry eye’ is an eye disease commonly found in dogs.
It occurs when insufficient tears (which are essential to keep the eye moist and healthy) are produced from the tear glands and is diagnosed by measuring tear production using a ‘Schirmer Tear Test’. In most cases, both eyes are affected.


-Recurrent conjunctivitis
-A sticky grey/white/green discharge from one or both eyes
-Clouding or dullness of the surface of the eye (the cornea)
-Discomfort – the animal may blink more than normal or rub at its eyes


The main aims of treatment for keratoconjunctivitis are to keep the eyes comfortable, free from infection and to preserve vision by increasing tear production or by giving artificial tears. Treatments will vary from case to case and depending on the suspected cause of the condition, with options usually including the following:


  • Medication to stimulate tear production

        In most cases, the first-line treatment is cyclosporine eye ointment (OptimmuneTM). Optimmune treats the underlying cause of dry              eye (destruction of the tear glands by the body’s immune system) and, as such, is the best treatment in mild to moderate cases. It is            usually very effective, but it needs to be given twice daily and lifelong treatment is usually required. If Optimmune is ineffective, a                  different eye drop, such as tacrolimus, may be used.

  • Artificial tears

       These include drops, gels and ointments to keep the surface of the eye moist and prevent evaporation of tears. These do not treat the           underlying cause, but instead help to replace the tears that are not being produced by the animal.

  • Antibiotics

       Corneal ulcers and bacterial infections occur quite commonly in dogs with dry eye, and so antibiotic eye drops may be prescribed                 from time to time.

  • Surgery

       Parotid Duct Transposition (PDT) can be performed should the medication mentioned above prove unsuccessful. The surgery involves           moving a salivary duct from its usual opening into the mouth to inside the lower eyelid. Saliva is then secreted onto the surface of the         eye and acts to ‘mimic’ tears and keep the surface of the eye moist. It’s important to note that, even after surgery, lifelong                               management may still be needed to keep the face clean and treat any complications that can occasionally be caused by saliva being             present in the eye instead of tears. 

In summary:

Most cases of dry eye will need lifelong management.
Whatever treatment is advised, management will usually be needed for the duration of the dog’s life and regular visits to your vet will still be needed. During these visits, the health of the eye will be checked, tear production will be reassessed and any side effects of the treatment strategies will be monitored.

Riverside Veterinary Surgery - Independant Veterinary Practice in Grays, Essex
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