Dry Eye

March Newsletter – Dry Eye

Dry eye is a condition which affects 1/22 of all dogs in the UK. It is caused by irreversible destruction of the tear glands by a dog’s own immune system.

Predisposed  breeds include

  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Pekingese
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Bull Dog
  • Shih-Tzu
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • English cocker Spaniel

Natural tears carry vital nutrients and oxygen, lubricate and cleanse the eye, and they also help to protect against infection. Without tears, the eye becomes very dry and uncomfortable. Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva), eye infections, and ulcers become more common and green or yellow discharge may be seen from the eyes. Eventually, these changes can lead to permanent blindness.

It is very important to diagnose Dry Eye early before these undesirable changes become severe and much of the tear tissue is destroyed

Specialist ophthalmologists recommend testing for Dry Eye in all dogs with more than one infection in a 12 month period.

Signs of dry eye

•             Uncomfortable eyes – your dog may blink excessively, rub the eyes or hold the eyes closed

•             Eyes red and inflamed

•             Discharge from the eyes

•             Eyes that appear dry

•             Frequent conjunctivitis, eye infections or corneal ulcers

•             Dark pigment on the surface of the eyes

•             Prominent blood vessels on the surface of the eyes

We measure your dog’s tear production using a Schirmer Tear Test. It is not uncomfortable for your dog and no sedation or anaesthetic is needed. A special strip of paper is placed in the eye, and tear production is assessed. The results are immediate.

Long-term ciclosporin is the treatment of choice. Ciclosporin controls the destruction of the tear glands, increases natural tear production, and controls painful inflammation. It is the only product available that controls the underlying disease. The sooner the product is used the better long-term result.

Once treatment starts, the appearance of the eyes should improve – this tells us the treatment is working but not that the disease has been ‘cured’. It is very important not to stop treatment at this stage, as the eyes will deteriorate again, causing your dog discomfort and resulting in further damage to the tear glands.

Regular check-ups are an essential part of this treatment. It is vital that the tear production is monitored regularly to ensure the condition is being correctly controlled.

We recommend testing for dry eye in predisposed breeds or potential candidates during their annual health checks, however, if you are concerned please don’t hesitate to call us for more information or to book the Schirmer tear test.


MSD Animal Health HUB. (2020). What is dry eye? [online] Available at: https://www.msd-animal-health-hub.co.uk/KBPH/my-dog/dog-dry-eye/what-is-dry-eye [Accessed 20 Mar. 2023].

www.rvc.ac.uk. (n.d.). Dry eye in dogs. [online] Available at: https://www.rvc.ac.uk/small-animal-vet/teaching-and-research/fact-files/keratoconjuncitivitis-sicca-dry-eye [Accessed 20 Mar. 2023].


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