Dry Eye (KCS) in a Young Dog

Blindness can Result but it Can be Treated


We adopted the cutest little dog from a shelter. She was a mess-matted, fleas and smelly. The vet said she was virtually blind-something about not enough tears as a puppy. We love our little Buttons to pieces. Is there an eye specialist you would recommend? She is happy but would be such fun if she could see further than her nose.


Dr. Nichol:

Buttons sounds delightful. Her eyes may respond well to treatment but she’ll need help soon to prevent permanent damage.


Poor tear production, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, KCS for short, causes dry painful eyes. In puppies KCS can result from bacterial infections or distemper virus; some are predisposed from birth. In adult dogs the cause is often unknown. A thick dark pigment on Buttons’ corneas (the outer surfaces of her eyes), acting like a window shade, is the likely cause of her blindness.


Schedule this girl to see her doctor ASAP. In the meantime you can eliminate a lot of nasty bacteria by cleaning those eyes often. Gently soften the discharges with a moist wash cloth. She’ll feel better if you apply a drop of artificial tears to each eye hourly.


Dry eyes can be managed long term with a topical medication called cyclosporine A. Also used orally as a chemotherapy aid and as an anti-itch medication for allergic dogs, cyclosporine is available as an eye ointment that stimulates tear production. A topical corticosteroid like prednisone should help the dark pigment on her corneas to lighten and eventually recede. Depending on the severity of her eye disease her chances of seeing well enough for a driver’s license might be pretty good.


We are fortunate to have Dr. Gavin Kennard, a veterinary ophthalmology specialist, in Albuquerque but your dog will also need a good general practitioner to manage other disorders that could be responsible for her eye problems. You are right to get serious about Buttons’ eyes. She’s lucky to have you.