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What is Dry Eye?

Tear production is an essential part of lubricating and protecting the eyes. Sometimes, tear production can be impaired by a number of conditions, including allergies, local swelling, and infection. While usually not serious if treated promptly, dry eye can be a symptom of Canine Distemper Virus and should be addressed as soon as possible. Since tears are responsible for carrying away waste products, foreign material, and infectious particles from the eyes, reduced or arrested tear production can allow infection, damage to the cornea (outer layer), or irreversible scarring to damage your pet’s eyes. See a veterinarian right away if you notice any unusual mucous production or redness around the eyes.

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, commonly called “dry eye” refers to inadequate tear production leading to inflammation of the conjunctival tissue and mucous discharge. If left untreated, corneal ulceration and scarring can result in blindness.

Dry Eye Average Cost

From 58 quotes ranging from $250 - $2,500

Average Cost

$400

Symptoms of Dry Eye in Dogs

  • Redness around the eyes
  • Mucous production (usually yellowish)
  • Brownish tint to the eye surface
  • Excessive blinking
  • Discharge of mucus, pus, or liquid from the eye
  • Rubbing at the eyes and whining
  • Loss of vision (severe circumstances)
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Causes of Dry Eye in Dogs

  • Infection of the tear duct or eye
  • Trauma to tear gland or duct
  • Autoimmune reaction attacking tear gland
  • Blocked tear duct
  • Breed-related predisposition – commonly seen in Pugs and Yorkshire Terriers
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Diagnosis of Dry Eye in Dogs

Owners who notice their pet’s eyes becoming reddened with mucous discharge and discomfort should see the veterinarian right away. The veterinarian will diagnose dry eye based on a visual inspection of the eye and assess the severity of the condition using the Schirmer Tear Test. For this test, a piece of specially-made paper is brought into contact with the lower eyelid at the outer corner of the eye and allowed to absorb for 60 seconds. The length of moistened paper at the end of the test gives a quantitative assessment of the eye’s ability to moisten itself. If the length is measured at less than 10mm, your pet has dry eye. Less than 5mm is considered severe. A healthy tear duct should moisten the paper to 15mm or more.

More difficult is diagnosing the cause of the dry eye. In many cases the immune system accidentally targets the tear gland, destroying the tissue. This is most common in American Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Schnauzer, and Highland White Terrier. In other cases, trauma to the tear duct (such as a bump on the snout during play) may resolve on its own, but the swelling should be controlled with appropriate measures. A visual inspection of the animal’s head will reveal this to be the case.

Sometimes an infection can obstruct the tear duct. If an infection (whether primary or secondary) is suspected, a swab of the mucous can be sent to the lab for culturing.

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Treatment of Dry Eye in Dogs

The treatment for dry eye will depend on the primary cause, which can be obscured by secondary problems. In many cases, pre-existing inadequate tear production can allow infections to invade the conjunctiva. Antibiotic drops are most commonly prescribed to clear up the infection. This is an important step, because often the primary cause is the immune system attacking the tear gland, for which the treatment is immunosuppressants. Giving immunosuppressants while an active infection is occurring can lead to serious problems. Thus, infections must be addressed before the preferred treatment of Cyclosporine. This medication is highly effective in treating autoimmune dry eye, so much so that 80% of patients even with severe cases respond to the treatment. Additional treatments include rewetting drops, and drops that help to dissolve thick mucous. These treatments are low-risk and may easily be administered at home.

In rare cases such as that of severely obstructed tear glands, or tear glands that have been damaged to the point of inadequacy, a surgical option may be desirable. The veterinarian may refer you to a canine ophthalmologist, who will carefully re-route one of your dog’s salivary glands to the tear duct. Saliva direct from the salivary gland is actually an excellent replacement for tears, and can completely correct severe obstructive dry eye. However, during meals the increased saliva production may cause your pet to weep dramatically. This of no medical concern, but some owners may find this distressing.

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Recovery of Dry Eye in Dogs

In most cases, Cyclosporine eyedrops will need to be administered once a day. In severe cases, they may need to be administered as much as three times a day until the condition improves, upon which a daily dose of once per day usually is enough to keep the condition in check. Return visits to the vet are needed especially after a few days of treatment to check how your dog is responding to the medication.

If your pet does not have autoimmune-induced dry eye, or does not respond to the Cyclosporin, rewetting drops may need to be administered 4-6 times a day, depending on the severity of the condition. After surgical correction, the saliva may occasionally leave mineral deposits in the eye, and so eyedrops to correct this will need to be administered periodically.

In any case, most dogs respond well to dry eye treatments, and if addressed promptly, most escape with no permanent damage.

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Dry Eye Average Cost

From 58 quotes ranging from $250 - $2,500

Average Cost

$400

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Dry Eye Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Tye

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Yorkie

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13 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Arthritis
Dry Eyes
Atopic Dermatitis

Three weeks ago our Yorkie presented with severe dry eyes with sudden onset. His third eyelid was exposed and eyes were very dry and almost crusted shut. He is on his second week of cyclosporine ointment therapy (3X daily) and eye lubricant (multiple times daily). His condition does not seem to be improving. Additionally, he suffers from extreme allergies and has been on a few courses of antibiotics in the past, but now receives Cytopoint injections (has had 2 so far). I believe the dry eye is immune-mediated, but I am wondering if the therapy is even working for him. Is it common for this therapy to be ineffective? Or is the onset of action longer than two weeks for this eye ointment? His STT has not improved over a week, and we will be testing again later this week, but I don't see any improvement. He appears to be in a lot of pain and spends all day sleeping in the corner. When he does walk around his front leg gives out every so often leading to a fall.

Jan. 29, 2018

Tye's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Sometimes treatment for dry eye may need to be given lifelong if an underlying condition cannot be found or treated, if the current eye lubricant is not being effective you could try a different brand to see if it is better for Tye. Generally treatment is symptomatic with artificial tears as well as treatment of the underlying condition; if you are not seeing any improvement it may be worth consulting with an Ophthalmologist to determine an underlying cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Jan. 30, 2018

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Princess

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Miniature Schnauzer

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Eye Redness
Eye Discomfort
Dry Eyes

Our dog was just diagnosed with severe dry eye with some scratches to the cornea. The vet gave her 2 weeks of doxycycline just in case a tick born illness contribute to the cause and also antibiotic eye drops plus the cyclosporine eye drops. The poor thing will barely open her eyes and doesn't seem to be able to see. Does the vision typically improve once the eye drops kick in?

Dec. 31, 2017

Princess' Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Whether Princess regains vision or not depends on how much scarring is present on her corneas. If you can get the dry-eye under control, and she is comfortable, your veterinarian will be able to assess her vision at that time. I hope that she does well!

Dec. 31, 2017

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Stella

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Hello. I have a 2.5 year old cavalier King Charles Spaniel that was just diagnosed with dry eye. She’s on cyclosporine, but she has scarring on her eye. Is the scarring reversible with the cyclosporine?

Dec. 22, 2017

Stella's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for contacting us today. Typically, the scarring is not reversible, no. If there is any inflammation that resolves with the treatment, you may see an improvement, but the scarring is just that - a scar on her cornea. Most dogs do not seem to notice the scarring, although she may have decreased vision because of it - depending on the severity, it is like looking through a dirty windshield, sort of. As long as you keep her eyes treated, the scarring shouldn't get worse.

Dec. 22, 2017

Thank you!!

Dec. 22, 2017

Stella's Owner

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Alfie

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Yorkie

dog-age-icon

14 years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Hi I had seen my vet couple of years ago about Alfie eyes they said he was going blind now seem them today about something different but said he has dry eyes and that's what has made him go blind And has given use 3 different drops Just feel like why wasn't we told them years ago about his dry eyes

Dec. 3, 2017

Alfie's Owner

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0 Recommendations

I do not know why your Veterinarian didn’t tell you about Alfie’s eyes being dry originally, this is something which you would need to discuss with them; if Alfie had dry eyes before I would have thought that your Veterinarian would have given some artificial tears to apply to the eyes. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Dec. 3, 2017

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gizmo

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Shiz tui

dog-age-icon

13 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

i have a 13 yr old shiztui and he was diagnoised with dry eyes a long time ago but he wouldnt let me put the eyedrops in his eyes. I was told when he was very little that he has an ulcer in his eye and the surgery was to expansive but that he would be ok if i didnt get the surgery also. fast forward all these years. he now is getting what looks like pus in his eye quite a bit. and sometimes his eye is bloodshot. i use a washcloth to clean his eye and sometimes i have to wipe his eye out using my finger because i cant get all of it out. i am on disability and cannot afford to go to the vet right now. is there something i can get over the counter for him and does this hurt him? thank you!

Nov. 30, 2017

gizmo's Owner


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1 Recommendations

This is not comfortable for Gizmo and may be painful too, you should use some sterile saline to flush the eye and then use an ophthalmic antibiotic ointment to apply on the eye; the level that Gizmo’s eye is at is quite severe and you should consider visiting a Veterinarian about this, you should search for a charity clinic near you that can assist with the cost for you. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Nov. 30, 2017

I have shih tzu 12 years old and one of her eys is too dry and she can not see. another one has cataract and become blind, Dr gave me some eyedrops for dry eye and he told me maybe her vision come back again, is there any surgary for her? can she see again? please guide me :'(

Sept. 25, 2018

Elnaz A.


My Shih Tzu is 14 years old, diagnosed with dry eyes. Vet prescribed Cyclosporine and said to use over the counter dry eye drops every 2 hours. Ive been using Systane Gel which works better because it last longer. I see an improvement. Have to wash out the icky stuff in her eyes too as that is like sand paper to them.

July 17, 2018

Joni S.


I too have shih tzu just diagnosed with dry eye. I was using saline and antibiotic ointment and was told by one vet not to use saline yet another vet said I could. Confused

Jan. 25, 2018

Sue

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Dry Eye Average Cost

From 58 quotes ranging from $250 - $2,500

Average Cost

$400

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