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What is Sjögren-like Syndrome?

There are many different types of autoimmune diseases that can negatively affect dogs. Sjögren-like syndrome occurs when antibodies attack the body. The glands that produce tears and the dog’s saliva, which then leads to the tears and saliva no longer being produced or the dog is producing a very low amount. In any type of autoimmune disorder, there can be times of flare-ups and times of remission. During times of flare-ups, the body believes that healthy cells are unhealthy cells and tries to fight them. Many types of body tissues can be affected, and in the case of Sjögren-like Syndrome, it is the areas of tears ducts and salivary glands. The glandular tissues are greatly affected. Even as humans, we need tears and saliva. If we as humans (and our dogs) do not have tears, then the eyes become very red and irritated. With no saliva, the body cannot swallow. 

Sjögren-like syndrome in dogs is an autoimmune disease that results in lack of glandular production of tears and saliva. This syndrome is also known as xerophthalmia, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, and xerostomia.

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Symptoms of Sjögren-like Syndrome in Dogs

Dogs with Sjögren-like syndrome have very noticeable symptoms, and at first may be mistaken by the dog owner as allergens in the eye. Symptoms can include:

  • Red eye
  • Crust formation around the eye
  • Lack of moisture in the eye
  • Lack of tears
  • Lack of saliva 

Types

There are different dog breeds that are more inclined to be affected by this syndrome. All dog breeds can be affected; however, these are most common types:

  • English Bulldogs
  • West Highland Terriers
  • Miniature Schnauzer

Causes of Sjögren-like Syndrome in Dogs

The underlying source of Sjögren-like Syndrome is unknown; however, it appears to be an autoimmune disorder, as the antibodies attack the dog’s own tissue of the glands.

Diagnosis of Sjögren-like Syndrome in Dogs

The veterinarian will listen to your report of your dog’s symptoms, and then run appropriate tests. The medical professional will perform a biochemistry analysis, a urinalysis, and a complete blood profile. Other tests that are used to diagnose Sjögren-like are serum protein electrophoresis to check the hemoglobin levels, antinuclear antibody testing, specific tests for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and other antibody testing in which the veterinarian deems appropriate.

The veterinarian will also give your dog a Schirmer tear test, which measures tear production. The veterinarian will also perform pathologic testing on the salivary glands. The medical professional may also perform a biopsy of the eye to test for conjunctivitis, and any other tests to rule out other diseases. The veterinarian will need to figure out any differential diagnosis to be sure the dog is affected by Sjögren-like Syndrome.

Treatment of Sjögren-like Syndrome in Dogs

There are a few treatment options for canines with Sjögren-like Syndrome, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca. The treatment methods are focused on any underlying disorders and controlling the keratoconjunctivitis sicca or Sjögren-like’s Syndrome. Treatment options include:

Ointments

Ointments are used for the eyes to help with the abnormal immune system, and are usually used twice a day. The active immunosuppressive ingredients in the ointments will improve tear production, and have been used for more than a decade with success.

Punctal Plugs

A medical professional must put in the punctal plugs, which are like a drain plug, but for the tear ducts. When the plug is used it prevents the very dry eye from recurring; more tears are kept in the eye. A veterinarian that specializes in ophthalmology will need to be visited for this procedure.

Recovery of Sjögren-like Syndrome in Dogs

Regular veterinary visits are required after any treatment is started, especially to examine the progress being made by punctual plugs (if they are inserted). Prognosis is good as long as the Sjögren-like-like Syndrome is kept under control by the medications given. It is important to keep a watchful eye on your pet and let the veterinarian know if there are any adverse reactions to the medications.