Dry Eye is caused by destruction of the tear glands by a dog's own immune system. This means that too few natural tears are produced. Damage to the tear glands is irreversible. If left untreated, eventually the tear glands are completely destroyed and your dog loses the ability to produce tears. Dry Eye is a painful condition, and ultimately leads to permanent blindness.
Both these dogs have Dry Eye - but look very different.
Natural tears have many important functions which are lost in Dry Eye; they carry vital nutrients and oxygen, lubricate and cleanse the eye, and help protect against infection. Without tears, the eye becomes very dry and uncomfortable. Conjunctivitis, eye infections and ulcers become more common and discharge may be seen from the eyes. New blood vessels start to grow on the surface of the eye and dark pigmentation may develop. Eventually these changes 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.
It is important to recognise that in the vast majority of cases, Dry Eye is a lifelong condition and requires lifelong treatment. If not treated correctly, your dog will experience discomfort and the disease will affect sight and welfare long term.
Dry Eye has a very variable appearance, so it is not possible to diagnose the condition just by looking. Fortunately there is a quick and simple test to diagnose Dry Eye in your dog, and with correct treatment the condition can be managed successfully long term.
Dry eye can affect all breeds at any age, so it is important to be aware of the signs to look out for.
1. Pierce V & Williams D, 2006, Determination of Schirmer Tear Test values in 1000 dogs. BSAVA Abstract 2006