K is for Keratoconjunctivitis sicca

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 in a dog (www.ufaw.org.uk)

KCS in a dog (www.ufaw.org.uk)

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!)


10 thoughts on “K is for Keratoconjunctivitis sicca

  1. Those pictures made me rub my eyes. I read about this a time back, my Dad who’s close to 90 has the problem, but everytime I tried to find out information for him, I got dog info. Hope you feel better soon.


  2. Hi Melanie!
    So nice to meet you, and a sister in Christ. I’m not a vet, though I love animals. Used to always have a dog, developed asthma, doc said no pets. Sad. We do cheat and dog sit a LOT though. It gives me my doggie love fix often enough that I’m surviving.
    Very interesting to read about this disease. I like that you go for the root cause – that’s something that I’ve been trying to get doctors to do my whole adult life. (I have four chronic illnesses to deal with – fun stuff – that keeps them hopping and diagnosing and fighting over who gets to give which med and then the other has to figure out one that doesn’t interfere…fun puzzle time. NOT.)
    I hope the Challenge is going well for you!
    Tina @ Life is Good
    A to Z Team @ Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014


    • Thanks for stopping by, Tina. Find the underlying cause of any problem is so important. Yes, you can treat symptoms, but unless you find the underlying cause and treat that, then there is never resolution. Good luck with four chronic issues, my two are enough! Take charge of your medical care though. I love that there are so many specialties, but in some ways, it makes things harder because there is not always the understanding of how the diseases or treatment effect other problems. Having a really good primary care doctor to deal with all of the interactions is a must! Good luck and God bless you! – Melanie


  3. Hi Melanie, nice to meet you. Thanks for the visit and the comment. Hope you recover from your illness soon. Dry eyes are also caused by too much computer and hormonal imbalances (thats what my eye specialist said).


    • There are many things that can cause blindness. KCS usually doesn’t cause it unless it is extremely advanced and the blindness is actually caused by damage to the cornea rather than the optic nerve or retina. Sudden blindness is usual from SARD (sudden acquired retinal degeneration) or trauma. Slow loss of vision is usually from cataracts. There is lots of information out there, but if she has specific questions, she can try to find a veterinary ophthalmologist that can go over what has gone on and if there are any treatments. The good news is that even if the pup never regains vision, they do very well without it!


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