Solutions for Dry Eye

Owners must be dedicated to a lifetime of treatment including frequent trips to the vet.

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Q: I have a 4-year-old Yorkshire Terrier who has been diagnosed with dry eye. I put 4 different kinds of drops in her 3 times a day but she still squints her eye all the time. I do not want her to lose her vision. Is there anything else I should do? Are there any treatments for this other than eye drops?

A: Dry eye, medically known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), is caused by a lack of tear production by the tear glands.

Tear production is easily measured with a paper strip placed in the eye, known as a Shirmer tear test. The rate of tear production is measured by how long it takes for the strip to become saturated.

There are numerous causes of dry eye, including:
1. Surgical removal of the tear gland for treatment of "cherry eye;"
2. A hyperactive immune system that attacks the body's own tear gland;
3. Use of certain drugs such as trimethoprim sulfa, an antibiotic.

Part of the treatment involves the replacement of tears with artificial tears. Unfortunately, this has to be done as often as every 2 hours.

In cases of immune-mediated KCS, a drug called cyclosporine is effective in suppressing the immune system and allowing close to normal tear production. Usually both artificial tears and cyclosporine are required to treat dry eye, and treatments may have to be continued indefinitely.

Dry eye that is not effectively treated will lead to more serious diseases such as corneal ulcers, pannus, and severe infection. Eventually there will be loss of vision, and the eye will have to be removed surgically.

Owners of dogs with dry eye must be dedicated to a lifetime of treatment, including frequent rechecks with a veterinarian. It may also be helpful to consult a veterinary ophthalmologist.

Jon Geller, DVM

- Read more Ask the Vet -


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