You may rarely give much thought to tears, or you may only associate them with sadness and weeping. Tears, though, play an important role for animals’ well being. In addition to lubricating the eyes, they contain anti-bacterial agents to prevent infection. Tears also contain the oxygen and nutrients that eyes need to function.
Red, inflamed eyes and a gooey discharge are telltale signs of a disorder in which there are not enough tears for the eyes to function well. This condition is known as Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) or dry eyes. While there are obvious symptoms of the condition, what may first draw your attention to the fact that there is a problem is a change in your pet’s behavior. Dogs with KCS are usually in obvious discomfort and nothing they do can soothe the itching, irritation, and pain.
Having a better understanding of the condition can help you to care for a pet that is suffering from KCS.
KCS affects older dogs because it often results from infections or systemic diseases that become increasingly more common as pets age. These conditions damage the ducts that carry tears to the eye, the nerves that are supposed to stimulate tear glands, or the tear glands themselves and, thus, lead to dry eyes. In some instances, the condition may be present at birth, can be the result of an injury, or may be a side effect of other medical treatment.
In many instances, you will notice that your dog’s eyes appear red, inflamed, and lack-luster. The itching and pain associated with dry eyes can lead dogs to constantly scratch and rub their eyes, which causes more problems such as sores around the eyes. If left untreated, your dog may begin to lose vision and could end up completely blind.
In most cases, dry eye can be successfully treated with medications that reduce inflammation and bacterial growth and allow normal tear flow to be re-established. Until tear function is restored, you may need to apply artificial tears to your dog’s eyes multiple times a day. In rare instances, your pet may need to undergo a surgical procedure in which a saliva gland is transplanted into the eye allowing saliva to act as a lubricant in place of tears.Lastly, educating yourself on dry eyes can help you identify a potential problem and manage symptoms of KCS.
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.