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Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, or Dry Eye 

by Lisa Stasiuk, Diogenoir

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, or Dry Eye as it is more commonly known, is not an hereditary condition but it is a condition that is on the rise. It refers to an eye irritation caused by inadequate tear production. It can lead to infection, ulcers of the cornea, and radically reduced vision. In extreme cases it can lead to total blindness.

Three separate factors, or a combination of the three, can cause this condition:

  1. The nerves leading to the tear glands do not stimulate the glands to secrete enough tears. This could be the result of nerve damage caused by an untreated middle ear infection. Generally, only one eye is affected. Dogs with this condition may also experience a dry nostril, causing it to lick at the nostril to keep it moist.

  2. The tear glands have been destroyed altogether or severely damaged, thus failing to secrete enough tears. This could be caused by a couple of things:

     i) chronic conjunctivitis (inflammation of the lining of the inner eye lids the inner eyelids are pink when healthy and red when affected); and/or

    ii) canine distemper virus can cause the tear glands to shut  down. This includes even the modified live virus utilized for annual vaccinations (see the article entitled Canine Vaccinations: A Synopsis of Current Thinking, also on our Breed Education page).

  3. Tear ducts may be plugged. This could necessitate surgery to clean the tear ducts. In the worst cases, a portion of the saliva duct may be re-sectioned to permit it to be utilized as a tear duct.

The good  treatment news is now instead of trying to keep the eye moist with artificial tears, which must be used every hour to be effective, there is a cyclosporin ointment that has been used with good results. You start off with twice a day applications of the ointment and gradually wean it  own to the absolute minimal dosage possible to maintain a  healthy-looking, moist, bright eye.   

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