Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) can be a devastating disease that causes severe pain and permanent vision loss if a dog is not properly and promptly treated. Pet owners can help prevent serious complications, however, by getting treatment as soon as possible. It also helps to be well informed of the facts related to KCS, which can help you recognize early signs of the disease.
1. Dry Eye Isn’t Just an “Old Dog” Disease
You might think of eye disease as something that comes with old age. While several common causes of KCS (dry eyes) include diseases that are more common in older dogs, young dogs can also develop the condition due to congenital problems, viruses, infections, and trauma. In some cases dry eyes may only be temporary, but you should seek a veterinarian’s advice to be sure.
2. Early-Stage KCS May Be Mistaken for Allergies
Cornea redness, discharge, and inflammation around the conjunctiva (eyelid) are similar to the symptoms you may see when a pet has an allergy attack. However, unlike allergies, your pet’s irritation and discomfort will not go away when the allergen is no longer around or with antihistamine medication. If you notice that the problem seems to persist, you should speak with your veterinarian, especially if your dog is an American Cocker Spaniel, Miniature Schnauzer, English Bulldog, Lhasa Apso, or West Highland White Terrier.
3. Get Treatment as Soon As Possible
How you care for your dog’s dry eyes depends on the cause of the condition, age of your pet, and the severity of the problem. In general, though, you should have a veterinarian examine your dog as soon as you notice a problem. In some cases, you will need to administer antibiotics, and beginning that treatment sooner rather than later can make a big difference in the outcome. Often, there is no cure for KCS, but you will be able to manage the symptoms. Starting your pet on drops or medication to ease dry eyes right away will help prevent further complications that can arise from the condition.
4. Medication Will Usually Allow You to Manage Symptoms
In addition to addressing any underlying conditions that may be contributing to dry eyes such as hypothyroidism or a reaction to medication, your veterinarian my prescribe a drug that will stimulate tear flow. Pets may also be treated with antibiotics and steroids to control infection and inflammation.
5. You Can Take Preventive Measures
There is no way to prevent the most common cause of KCS, immune-mediated damage to the tear glands. However, you may be able to avoid other conditions that can lead to dry eyes. Specifically, take steps to prevent ear infections by keeping the ear canals clean or treat ear infections right away with prescription antibiotics. Try to avoid injuries to the face that might damage tear glands or facial nerves. You should also be sure to manage any systemic disease including hypothyroidism or canine distemper. Most experts recommend not breeding dogs with KCS because there is a theory that some dogs are genetically predisposed to it.
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.