Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) in Cats

Overview of Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca in Cats
(also known as “Dry Eye”)

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is a medical term used to describe a condition of decreased tear production. The term technically means “inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva from drying.” When the watery part of the tears is not produced in adequate amounts, the eye becomes chronically inflamed, and scarring of the cornea may lead to a decrease in vision. Another commonly used term to describe this disease is “dry eye.”

Below is an overview of Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) in Cats followed by in-depth information on the diagnosis, treatment and detailed medication information.

The most common cause in cats is an infection of the eye with feline herpesvirus. Other causes include chronic inflammation of the conjunctiva for other reasons, a rare side effect of certain medications (such as sulfonamide drugs), removal of a prolapsed gland of the third eyelid, trauma to the tear glands, and certain neurological disorders. The disease may affect one or both eyes.

If left untreated, KCS is a potentially vision threatening disease. It may lead to painful corneal ulcerations in the acute stage of the disease. In chronic KCS, vision may be impaired because of scarring of the cornea.

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) in Cats

Veterinary care includes diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Treatment of Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) in Cats

The intensity of the treatment depends on the severity of the disease. It may include one or more of the following medications:

Home Care and Prevention

Once diagnosed, home care is an important part of treatment. Keeping the eyes clean and free of discharge can be challenging. Eye discharge is common and can be very sticky and hard to remove. Applying a warm compress to the eye for a few minutes may make it easier to remove the discharge. The discharge may also be removed from the eye by carefully rinsing the eye with an irrigating eye solution that can be bought over the counter at a drug store. Some cats do not tolerate eye washes, but do accept the warm, wet compresses.

Apply all medication as directed, and notify your veterinarian if you are having difficulty treating your pet. When treating your animal with both drops and ointment, use the drops first, followed by the ointment.

Monitor the eye for changes such as increased discharge, squinting or redness, or if your pet starts rubbing or scratching at his eye. Notify your veterinarian immediately.

It is difficult to prevent KCS but early treatment is crucial. It is very important to take your pet to your veterinarian when you notice persistent discharge and redness. When diagnosed early in the disease, the long-term prognosis for vision is much better than when the KCS is diagnosed in a late stage of the disease.

In-depth Information on Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) in Cats

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca is an eye disease precipitated by a lack of watery tears, as described in the breakdown of the words:

kerato- (cornea, which is the clear, transparent front of the eye)
-conjunctiv- (conjunctiva, which the delicate membrane lining the eye)
-itis (inflammation)
sicca (dryness of the eye)

So, it is an inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva secondary to dryness of the eye.

As the watery part of the tear film diminishes, the eye tries to compensate by making more mucousy material. In addition, inflammation of the surface of the eye also stimulates the production of more mucous.

There are other eye diseases that may resemble keratoconjunctivitis sicca. It is important that an accurate diagnosis is made early in the disease because the treatments vary depending upon the eye disease present.

Diseases that can appear similar to KCS include:

Veterinary care includes diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

In-Depth Information on Diagnosis of KCS in Cats

It is important to inform your veterinarian of all the medications your cat is currently taking because KCS may be an uncommon side effect associated with some medications. Diagnosis usually includes the following:

In-Depth Information on Treatment of KCS in Cats

Therapy of KCS is aimed at increasing tear production, applying artificial tears, and reducing any bacterial infections or inflammation .

Home Care for KCS in Cats

It is important that treatments are done on a consistent basis. Most cats with KCS cannot be cured, but the disease can be controlled with medications. Diligent care is often necessary long term to keep the cat comfortable.

Care at home also consists of keeping the eye lubricated and clean.