A person applies artificial tears to one of their dog's eyes

Artificial Tear Solutions for Dogs and Cats

An artificial tear solution, commonly known as Refresh® and many other brand names, is a wetting agent used to treat keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), also known as dry eye, for dogs and cats. KCS occurs when there is a decrease in tear production. This can cause chronic inflammation of the eye, which may result in a decrease in vision.

The various types of artificial tear solutions commercially available attempt to mimic the normal corneal tear film, and to replace components of the natural tear film.

Most artificial tear solutions contain preservatives but some are preservative-free. It is believed that preservative-free solutions may be milder and cause less irritation of the cornea, particularly with long-term administration. Artificial tear solutions are OTC (over-the-counter drug). They do not require a prescription, but they should not be administered except under the supervision and guidance of a veterinarian.

Artificial tear solutions are not approved for use in animals, but they can be used in an extra-label manner.

Brand Names of Artificial Tear Solutions

Artificial tear solutions are registered for use in humans only.

Artificial tear solutions containing preservatives are available in 15 milliliter, 25 milliliter, 30 milliliter, and 0.5 and 1.0 ounce bottles. Preservative-free solutions are available in disposable single-use 0.1 to 0.2 ounce containers

Uses of Artificial Tear Solutions for Dogs and Cats

Artificial tear solutions are used to sooth irritated and inflamed eyes, to protect exposed eyes, and to supplement aqueous tear production in the treatment of keratoconjunctivitis sicca.

Artificial Tears for Pets: Precautions and Side Effects

While generally safe and effective when used under the supervision of a veterinarian, artificial tear solutions can potentially cause side effects in some animals. Artificial tear solutions should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.

If the solution produces eye irritation and redness, eye pain or a worsening in the amount of eye discharge present, it should be discontinued, and you should contact your veterinarian. Care should be taken to avoid touching the dropper tip to the surface of the eyelids or eye in order to prevent contamination of the container.

Most artificial tear solutions are compatible with other water-soluble eye medications. There are no documented drug interactions among these and other products.

Dosage Information of Artificial Tears for Dogs and Cats

In general, the contact time of these solutions with the surface of the eye is extremely short (just a few minutes), so severe dry eye may require applications as frequently as every 1 to 4 hours.

Traditionally, the medication is used as needed to diminish mucous production and keep the animal comfortable.

The duration and frequency of application depends on the severity of the condition, the desired degree of lubrication and the development of any adverse effects. Medication should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian.