July 2017 is the first veterinary Dry Eye Awareness Month, launched by pharmaceutical company Bayer in order to draw attention to a troublesome and often-missed problem in pets. Dry eye (kerato-conjunctivitis sicca or KCS) is a painful condition that affects dogs and, less commonly, cats. The condition occurs when not enough tear film is produced, making your pet’s eyes dry, irritated and susceptible to injury and infection. It’s estimated that 350,000 dogs in the UK are affected by KCS, so we spoke to our pet health expert to find out more about the condition.
Symptoms of dog dry eye can include a thick discharge from the eyes, which will appear often yellow or green in colour. You might become aware of an increased blink rate, redness in the eye or changes in the appearance of the cornea. Look out for the presence of corneal pigmentation and vessels on the cornea. You may notice that your dog or cat excessively rubs their eyes, due to irritation, which will only serve to cause further trauma to their eyes.
The lack of lubricant across the surface of the cornea, reduced corneal health and self-trauma, makes corneal ulceration common in pet patients with dry eye. A corneal ulceration is a nasty open sore on the thin membrane protecting the eye, and if it is left untreated there is a chance it can result in loss of vision or even blindness. It is important that eye infections are dealt with straight away, they can become chronic if they’re not looked at and at the very least they might lead to permanent damage.
Some more at risk than others
Certain breeds of dog are more likely to display a propensity to dry eye. These include, but aren’t limited to, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shih-Tzus, West Highland White Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Yorkshire Terriers, Bulldogs, Pekingese, Pugs and Lhasa Apso. Dry eye is less common in cats, however Burmese cats are more prone, and it can also be a symptom of Feline Herpes Virus (FHV-1). It’s not known why some breeds are more predisposed than others but specialist ophthalmologists advise regularly testing for these particular animals.
Dry eye can not only cause serious problems in the future but it can be painful for your dog or cat, you may not notice them as loving and playful as usual. Your vet can diagnose the condition with a quick an inexpensive test called a Schirmer Tear Test. If you have any concerns, or you would like a routine test carried out on your pet then you should contact your vet. The sooner your pet is back to enjoying life’s adventures, the better!
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