Dog Care: Understanding Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is a common eye condition in dogs, and female dogs seem to be more susceptible to developing this condition than male dogs. It occurs when there's an insufficient amount of tear film coating the surface of the eye, and this causes the cornea at the front of the eye and the conjunctiva, which is the membrane covering the white part of your dog's eye, to become dry and inflamed. Here's what you need to know about dry eye syndrome in dogs:

Causes And Symptoms

It's not always possible to identify the cause of dry eye syndrome, but it can be caused by bacteria or chronic inflammation of the eye due to an underlying eye condition. Additionally, drug toxicity has been associated with the condition, particularly in the form of exposure to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and atropines. Some cases of dry eye syndrome are caused by an abnormal immune system reaction that causes glands in your dog's eye to become inflamed, which results in the tear ducts becoming blocked.

Symptoms of dry eye syndrome include blinking excessively and the presence of mucus around the eye. The tissue around your dog's eyes may also appear swollen, and ulcers can form on the cornea as a result of irritation caused by insufficient lubrication.

Diagnosis And Treatment

Your vet will diagnose dry eye syndrome by examining your dog's eyes and carrying out a Schirmer tear test. This test involves having a strip of special paper placed directly on the eye just underneath your dog's eyelid, and once it's removed, the level of moisture on the paper is measured. Your vet can administer numbing eye drops to keep your dog comfortable during this short test. Discharge from your dog's eye can be swabbed and analysed for the presence of bacteria, and the vet can also check for ulcers on the cornea by carrying out a fluorescein angiography. This involves using a dye to highlight damaged blood vessels and allows the cornea to be seen in more detail.

Treatment for dry eye syndrome is dependent on the identified cause, but a topical lubricant and artificial-tear drops can be prescribed to reduce blinking and make your dog more comfortable. Bacterial infections are treated with antibiotics, an abnormal immune system reaction can be brought under control with an immunosuppressant and corticosteroids can be used to reduce inflammation. Bringing inflammation under control and keeping your dog's eyes moist will often be sufficient to allow corneal ulcers to heal on their own, but persistent ulcers may require surgical intervention, which would involve the ulcerated tissue being scraped away.

If your dog has symptoms of dry eye syndrome, or if you have any concerns about their eye health, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.