Health Articles

Dry Eye  (Keratitis Sicca)

by Anne Jones RN, BSNE

Keratitis Sicca affects many Bichons, especially as they grow older. The common name is dry eye. As with other eye diseases, the first sign may be redness in the eye, along with a discharge. The discharge may be thickened and white, yellow (may indicate infection) or clear (excessive tears). Your veterinarian can determine if there is need for antibiotic for infection or may refer you to an ophthalmologist for a more thorough examination.

The thick white discharge is probably keratitis sicca, caused by a lack of tear production. It may be inherited, may be autoimmune in nature or may be from drying caused by extensive use of antiallergy medications. It can be short term or chronic. A test, called the Schirmer tear production test, involves inserting a dye embedded paper beneath the lower lid to mesure the amount of tears being produced. It is fast and inexpensive. Lack of tears can cause a corneal ulcer to form and this can last for weeks and may result in permanent scarring of the cornea if untreated. Scar tissue can impair the vision.

Treatment for dry eye will be long term and will likely involve the use of prescription eye drops twice a day. The drug used is a solution of cyclosporine (brand name Optimune). Human artificial tears, preferably the ointment kind in a tube, can help in the short term. The use of antibiotics is necessary only when there is an infection. Artificial tears used for temporary relief associated with the use of antihistamines will not prevent corneal ulceration in the dog with chronic keratitis sicca.