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Dry Eyes in Cats and Dogs

 Understanding Dry Eye in Your Pet

Dry eye, which is more formally known as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, is a disorder that occurs when your pet’s eyes do not make enough tears.  As a result, it eyes do not receive proper natural lubrication.  This can be quite uncomfortable to your pet and make its eyes more susceptible to infection & irritation.  Recognizing dry eye is the first step in helping your pet overcome this fairly common problem.

  • Understanding Dry Eye in Cats and Dogs

Most people do not realize this, but tears actually have three parts.  The first part is a superficial oily layer.  There is also a watery layer and an inner mucin layer.  When a pet suffers from dry eye, the liquid portion of the tear is not produced. The mucin layer, however, is still produced.  This results in a thick discharge that collects in your pet’s eyes.  This can give your pet the appearance of having an eye infection when it does not.  An infection can, however, occur if the problem is not fixed because your pet is unable to flush away dirt and bacteria from its eyes.

  • The Purpose of Tears

Tears serve a variety of purposes for your pet’s eyes.  First of all, tears are responsible for carrying nutrients and oxygen to the cornea.  Without tears, the cornea is unable to get these necessary supplies.  In addition, tears help keep the eye clean and protected from bacteria and other debris.  Again, the cornea has no way to stay clean without the help of tears. 

The superficial oily layer of the tears helps them to slide easily over the eye.  It also prevents the tears from evaporating too quickly.  The inner mucin layer also assists in the movement of tears.  In addition, it helps trap foreign materials in order to clear them out of the eye.

  • Cause of Dry Eye

The majority of cases of dry eye in dogs, approximately 80%, are caused by immune problems.  When this happens, the immune T cells attack the cells that product tears.  This prevents the tears from being properly produced.  Viruses, certain drugs, anaesthetics, chronic eye infections, and trauma to the eye can also cause dry eye.

Cats rarely get dry eye, but it is fairly common in dogs.  Certain breeds of dogs tend to get dry eye more than others.  These breeds include Bulldogs, Cocker Spaniels, Lhaso Apsos, Shih Tzus, and West Highland White Terriers.  Dogs that have problems with bulging eyes or those who sleep with their eyes partially open are also more prone to developing dry eye. 

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