One can imagine how uncomfortable dry, irritated eyes can be. Our dogs, who don't have the means to tell us what is bothering them, must often suffer in silence if this disorder isn't quickly detected. But Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or KCS as it is usually abbreviated, can have grave consequences if it is not treated or is misdiagnosed. In this article, we'll discover what causes KCS, which breeds may be naturally predisposed to suffer from it, and what treatments are available.
What is KCS?
KCS is caused by insufficient or abnormal tear production. It is for this reason that KCS is also sometimes called Dry Eye. Tears are mostly made up of watery secretions produced by the lacrimal glands, and a deficiency in this area can cause the dry eyes. Tears are very important to the health of the eyes; they clean and lubricate the corneas and help play a role in the healing of eye infections. The lack of tears irritates the cornea and can cause ulcers on the cornea, scarring on the cornea and, if left untreated, even blindness.
Who is affected?
There are several breeds that are predisposed to develop KCS, including Bloodhounds, Boston terriers, bull terriers, English bulldogs, English and American cocker spaniels, Kerry blue terriers, Lhasa apsos, miniature poodles, miniature schnauzers, Pekingese, pugs, Sealyham terriers, Shih tzus, standard schnauzers, West Highland white terriers and Yorkshire terriers. It is rare to find congenital KCS, or dogs that are born with the disease, but it is sometimes found in toy breeds, which have very small or no lacrimal glands.
KCS can also appear in dogs because of outside influences, such as exposure to sulfa containing antibiotics, anesthesia, which can cause temporary dryness, or a knock in the head around the area where the lacrimal glands are located. It can also be a symptom of a larger problem, such as distemper infection.
The Symptoms of KCS
In the early stages of KCS, there is often redness apparent in the conjunctiva, which is the thin, transparent surface of the eye. This redness is the indicator of inflammation, and it can be quite painful. This acute pain will eventually fade to mild irritation and is often accompanied by yellow discharge. Because of this discharge, KCS is sometimes diagnosed as conjunctivitis. KCS will either not respond to antibiotic conjunctivitis therapy, or will come back after the treatment is finished. If left untreated, the KCS could progress to ulcers in the cornea, which can lead to blindness.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Veterinarians can perform a Schirmer Tear Test, which measures the amount of tears being produced. The veterinarian can also perform a fluoroscein dye test, which checks for corneal ulcers.
The ultimate goal of treatment is to restore moisture in the eye. This is usually done by applying tear stimulants or artificial tear replacements. Every dog is different and there will be a period of trial and error while the veterinarian and the dog's handler work together to find the best treatment. Unfortunately, there is no cure for KCS, and stopping any treatment will surely bring back the painful symptoms of the disease. Those that are committed to the health of their dogs will find that their dogs are much happier and healthier as long as the treatment continues.