K is for keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca is also known as “dry eye.” Essentially the eyes no longer produce the tear film like normal. Unbeknownst to many people there are actually multiple layers to the tear film – water, oil, and mucus When one or more layers of the tear film is no longer produced, then damage is done to the cornea (outer portion of the eye).
In dogs, KCS, is often found in dogs due to an immune-mediated condition that destroys the tear film producing portions of the eye. It is also common in “bug-eyed” breeds – short noses, big eyes, such as pugs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, Bulldogs, and many others. These breeds often sleep with their eyes partially open. This is also why many of these breeds seem to have a pigmented line along the middle of their eyes – the eyelids don’t come all the way together when they sleep, so that portion dries out and develops a pigment change. Veterinary Partner has an excellent handout for the average person to understand KCS in dogs – it is actually a great reference for most veterinary diseases!
KCS is diagnosed by testing the production of tears in a given time frame. The Schirmer teat test measures this by collecting the tears in an eye in blotting paper. A comprehensive eye exam is also needed. Additional testing using dyes can be used to determine which segment of the tear film is not functional in any given eye.
There are many prescription medications to treat KCS. There are also over the counter medications and changes that can be made to lifestyle that can help improve KCS symptoms. Remember that there is often an underlying cause for KCS and treating the underlying cause may reverse or significant improve KCS symptoms.
(I apologize for the repetitive nature of some words and the lack of detail, but I have come down with whatever horrid disease is being spread in my area. I am hoping the swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, congestion, and neck, head, and back pain goes away soon!)