Tear production plays an important role in eye health, they help in lubricating the eye, clearing the eye and preventing infections (The tear film is a mixture of mucus, fatty liquid, and water). Tears are produced by the lacrimal glands and any defects in this gland results in reduced tear production and dry eye.

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) is a condition that is also commonly referred to as dry eye. The medical term means inflammation of the cornea and surrounding tissues from drying. KCS usually occurs in both eyes, some dogs are genetically predisposed to it, while others may develop it due to anatomical defects, bacterial or viral infections, inflammatory process, drug induced or weakened immune system.

Typical symptoms include greenish mucoid discharge caused by overproduction of mucus due to lack of tear secretion and redness of eyes. Affected dogs often squint, blink excessively or hold their eyes shut.  If treatment is not initiated at the appropriate time it may lead to corneal ulcerations, corneal oedema and in certain cases it may lead to blindness. 

Diagnosis of this condition is normally a simple affair. A test called the "Schirmer tear test" uses a small strip of paper to measure the quantity of tears produced by each eye. A dye is also employed during this diagnostic process to determine the integrity of the cornea.

Commonly affected breeds include- Bull Terrier, English Bulldog, Cocker Spaniel, Lhasa Apso, Miniature Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, Pekingese, Pug, Shih Tzu, Schnauzer and Yorkshire Terrier.

Treatment is the use of lubricating eye drops and eye drops to promote tear production. The two commonly used ophthalmic medications to stimulate tear production, cyclosporine and tacrolimus. Both are easily placed in the eyes once or twice daily. These drugs are very safe and most pets improve dramatically with their consistent use. Gently cleaning the eyes several times a day with a warm, wet washcloth will help your dog feel better and may help stimulate tear film production. Your veterinarian will demonstrate the correct way to administer your pet's medications and address any questions you may have about caring for your pet's condition. Sadly, there is no cure for KCS and treatment is life-long. Alternatively (though less successfully), a surgical approach may be employed to transpose a salivary duct to the eye margin and thereby achieve a modicum of lubrication. This approach is uncommonly undertaken. There is a known method to prevent KCS.

With today's drugs, the prognosis for dogs diagnosed with KCS is very good. Dry eye requires lifelong medical care. With diligent attention and monitoring, most dogs are able to enjoy a pain-free life.