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Symptoms of Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca in Dogs

By Maureen Ryan. July 10, 2012 | See Comments

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Symptoms of Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca in Dogs

Early detection of canine dry eye can keep your dog from suffering from serious pain and discomfort. Learn how to recognize dry eye here.

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) in mild cases may be very uncomfortable and in severe cases can be extremely painful and debilitating for dogs. There are several obvious signs that a dog has KCS, or dry eyes. Recognizing these symptoms early can help you get treatment for your pet and avoid the more devastating consequences associated with KCS, which can include more profound pain and blindness.

Signs of Eye Irritation

Without adequate tears to lubricate and clean the eye, your dog’s eyes will likely become inflamed, red, and rough. These problems mostly affect the outer covering of the eye (the cornea) and the lining of the eyelid (conjunctiva).

You may notice the following:

  • Dullness and lack of “shine” to the eyes
  • Discharge from the eyes: this may be thick and stringy or more like pus
  • Redness around the eyelid

Behavioral Changes in Your Dog

In some cases, the first sign that something is wrong with your pet may not be the appearance of the eyes. Rather, your dog may begin to show the following behaviors:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Constant rubbing and scratching at eyes due to itchiness and pain, which  may lead to sores and scratches around the eyes
  • Changes to the cornea (brown pigmentations, filminess, ulcers, scar tissue)
  • Frantic behavior and constant irritation due to the pain and discomfort
  • Loss of vision and possibly complete blindness
  • In cases where KCS is due to facial nerve damage, the first sign of a problem may be a dog’s attempts to constantly lick one or both nostrils, which also become dry from the condition.

In the early stages of KCS, dogs may not display any signs of discomfort or changes in the appearance of the eye. When symptoms do first appear, they are sometimes mistaken for allergies or environmental irritation. If you notice that your dog is in constant discomfort, though, or the irritation doesn’t clear up when your pet is away from suspected allergens, you may have misdiagnosed the cause. In this case you should have your veterinarian examine your dog, especially if your dog is of a high-risk breed such as American Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Schnauzers, English Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos, or West Highland White Terriers.

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.

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