As a responsible dog owner, you will come across many problems concerning your pet’s health. One of the most common is dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye in dogs, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, as it is known by its official medical term, is characterized by an inflammation of the eye, specifically the cornea and its surrounding tissue.
It occurs when, for one reason or another, there is not enough fluid (or tears) being produced in your dog’s eye. This may lead to the eye looking crusty and swollen, and the dog may blink more frequently or paw at its eyes.
How can you fix that problem? We’re here to help.
Causes of Dry Eye in Dogs
Tear ducts can be blocked by foreign objects such as dust and dirt. It is the job of tears or the fluid present in the eyes to flush out these foreign objects, keeping the eye clean and free of infection.
However, blocked tear ducts lead to a lack of fluid production, making it harder for the eyes to flush out dirt and bacteria.
Blocked or dysfunctional tear ducts can be caused by a number of factors.
Injuries or Trauma
Head injuries can cause damage to the tear ducts, making them malfunction. Your vet may ask if your dog has recently taken a fall or been hit in the head with, say, a ball.
If this is the case, your vet may run other tests to ensure that no other damage has been caused by this injury.
On the other hand, tear ducts can also be damaged due to an infection, such as herpes or chlamydia.
Another possible cause of dry eye in dogs would be an autoimmune disorder. These disorders send out signals to attack the cells present in the tear ducts, causing them to malfunction or stop working entirely.
If this is the case, your vet will prescribe immunosuppressants to solve the problem.
Sometimes, dry eye syndrome is caused by congenital factors. Data suggests that female dogs are more likely to develop dry eye syndrome, and there is also a higher percentage of small dogs diagnosed with dry eye compared to dogs of a larger breed.
Breeds commonly in need of dog dry eye treatment are Cocker Spaniels, Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus, among other small varieties.
Diagnosis for Dry Eye in Dogs
When you notice any redness, swelling, or dryness in your dog’s eyes, take them to the vet right away.
There, a thorough visual examination of your dog’s eyes will be conducted, and the vet may ask about your dog’s medical history, such as infections and accidents, to rule out any other underlying causes.
Your vet will then conduct a Schirmer tear test, which is used to determine the amount of tears your dog produces. This is done by inserting a thin strip of paper in the lower lid of your dog’s eye for about a minute.
The amount of tears absorbed by the paper will determine whether there aren’t enough tears being produced by the eyes; the fewer tears absorbed, the more likely it is your dog has dry eyes.
Your vet will then proceed to figure out the cause of this problem, such as lacerations to the eye or autoimmune disorders.
After a proper diagnosis, your vet will then provide a treatment course and is most likely to prescribe eye drops to alleviate your dog’s pain.
Dog Dry Eye Treatment
What is a common treatment? Often, vets will prescribe cyclosporine eye drops for dogs or tacrolimus eye drops. These are used to increase tear production, as well as alleviate any inflammation present in the eye and tear glands.
Your vet may prescribe these two options alongside re-wetting drops. These should be administered according to the instructions given to you by your vet.
Often, you will only need to administer cyclosporine once a day. However, for more extreme cases, you may need to administer it up to three times a day.
While it can be a bit of a struggle to administer eye drops to your pet, especially if they like to move a lot, your vet may have suggestions and techniques for you to leverage.
Try not to touch the tip of the eye dropper to any foreign object, including your finger and your dog’s eyelids. Doing so may lead to contamination.
If you are administering multiple drops, such as the re-wetting kind as well as cyclosporine, try to space them within a few minutes of each other.
Lastly, make sure to wash your hands before and after administering these drops to your pet.
If, however, you would prefer the natural route, there is still a way for you to administer a dog dry eye home remedy.
Common natural prescriptions include feeding your dog cod liver oil, as well as applying a few drops of the same oil to their eyes.
You may also create a wash using calendula, echinacea, or St. John’s wort to rinse out the dirt in your dog’s eyes.
Have you dealt with dry eye in dogs? What have you tried?