Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS, Dry Eye) in Dogs

Overview of Canine Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (Dry Eye)

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is a Latin 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 dog’s eye can become chronically inflamed, and scarring and pigmentation of the cornea may lead to a decrease in vision. Another commonly used term to describe this disease is “dry eye.”

Numerous breeds of dogs are at risk for developing KCS including the West Highland white terrier, English bulldog, pug, shih tzu, American cocker spaniel, Lhasa apso and Pekingese.

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.

Causes of Keratoconjunctivitis in Dogs

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Keratoconjunctivitis in Dogs

Veterinary care includes diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Treatment of Keratoconjunctivitis in Dogs

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 for Dogs with Keratoconjunctivitis

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.

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 any 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.

Information In-depth for Dogs with Keratoconjunctivitis

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 (which means 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.

Disease that Appear Similar to Dry Eye in Dogs

Several eye diseases may resemble keratoconjunctivitis sicca. It is important that an accurate diagnosis is made early in the disease because chronic KCS may lead to blindness. Diseases that can appear similar to KCS include:

Veterinary care includes diagnostic tests and subsequent treatment recommendations.

Diagnosis In-depth for Dogs with Keratoconjunctivitis

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

Treatment In-depth for Dogs with Keratoconjunctivitis

Treatment is aimed at increasing tear production, applying artificial tears, and reducing any bacterial infections, and decreasing inflammation and scarring of the cornea.

It is important that treatments are done on a consistent basis. The majority of dogs with KCS cannot be cured, but the disease can often be controlled. Diligent care is often necessary long term to prevent blindness.

Home Care for Dogs with Keratoconjunctivitis

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