When a congenital defect or an acquired abnormality prevents the normal production of tears by the lacrimal gland, it results in a condition referred to as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (“dry eye” or KCS). Both eyes are always affected by the condition.
Since it has been observed that some breeds of dogs such as Bulldogs are more prone to developing the condition compared to other breeds, KCS is considered by primarily as an inherited disease. KCS can also occur as a consequence of viral infections, diseases of the immune system, inflammatory conditions, or as a side effect of certain medications. Dogs which have undergone a botched surgery to correct “Cherry Eye” are also predisposed to KCS.
Dogs with KCS often have a greenish, mucoid discharge due to the overproduction of mucus. This is an attempt of the body to provide lubrication to the eyes since there is a lack of or absence of tears. Other symptoms include redness of the conjunctiva and the sclera, structures that surround each eye. If the condition is not given immediate attention, the cornea may eventually become swollen and irritated as evidenced by the appearance of a bluish cast.
If KCS remains untreated, the conjunctiva can suffer from secondary bacterial infections and corneal ulceration may occur due to poor lubrication and the lack of protective mechanisms of the eyes. Pain and irritation may further aggravate the condition. Severe cases often end up in the loss of normal eye functions and consequently blindness if KCS remains to be uncorrected.
An important diagnostic tool for KCS is called the Schirmer Tear Test. A small strip of paper is used to determine the amount of tears which is produced by each eye. The test also includes the evaluation of the integrity of the cornea by application of a dye.
Since there is no cure for KCS, steps are taken to effectively manage KCS which includes—
• Supply artificial tears by using eye drops
• Increasing tear production by administering Cyclosporine or other
medications that can increase tear production.
These management techniques are continued for the dog’s entire lifetime to prevent the development of serious complications.
A special surgical procedure may also be done by transposing a salivary duct to the margin of the eye to have even a small amount of lubrication. However, this approach is relative less successful and is not common carried out.
Since KCS has a genetic component, dogs suffering from the condition should never be allowed to breed.