Dry Eye in Dogs

Dry eye occurs when your dog does not make enough tears to keep the eye lubricated. The condition is mostly caused by an immune problem. This page looks at the symptoms and possible causes, as well as some natural remedies such as herbs that can be used to treat this eye problem.

Dry eye, medically known as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS), occurs when there is insufficient tear production to keep the eye moist and lubricated.

Tears are made up of 3 parts:

  • a superficial oily layer
  • a watery layer
  • an inner mucoid layer

Dogs with dry eye do not produce sufficient amount of the watery part of the tear, while the mucoid part is still being made. This results in a thick layer of mucoid discharge being collected in the eyes. A dog with dry eye therefore has a lot of "gunk" around the eye, and very often because there is not enough water to lubricate the eye, the eyelid rubs against the cornea, making it look "cloudy". Bacterial infections can result because of dry eye because there is insufficient tears to flush dirt and bacteria from the eye.

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The Functions of Tears

The watery layer of tears transports oxygen and nutrients to the cornea, flushes dust, and protects the eye from bacteria. The cornea has no blood vessels, therefore it relies entirely on tears for oxygen and waste removal. The superficial oily layer allows tears to slide smoothly over the eye, and prevents tears (made up mostly of water) from evaporating. The inner mucoid layer allows tears to flow smoothly; it also traps and binds material together making it easier to clear from the eye.

Possible Causes of Dry Eye in Dogs

Cocker Spaniel There are quite a few possible causes of canine dry eye. One common cause is due to an autoimmune problem. The dog's immune T cells attack the tear-producing cells and prevent them from producing tears.

Other causes of dry eye in dogs include:

  • Injuries to the tear glands, such as infections or trauma
  • Chronic eye infection (herpes virus or chlamydia infection)
  • Reaction to drugs (e.g. sulfonamides)
  • Surgical removal of the gland of the third eyelid (as a treatment for cherry eye - not recommended)
  • Viruses, such as distemper

Dog breeds that are predisposed to dry eye include:

  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Bulldogs
  • Westies
  • Lhaso Apsos
  • Shih Tzus

Symptoms of Dry Eye in Dogs

If you notice any of the following symptoms in your dog, he may have dry eye. Be sure to go to your veterinarian for an eye exam. Failing to treat dry eye may lead to partial or complete blindness.

  • Thick, yellowish discharge that may stick to the hair around the eye
  • The affected eye may look dry, dull, and "cloudy"
  • Recurrent eye infections
  • Repeated and excessive blinking and/or winking

Natural Remedies for Dogs with Dry Eye

Natural remedies include the use of herbs, homeopathy, and nutritional supplements to treat this eye condition. Many dog parents have reported positive results using homeopathic remedies. However, since canine dry eye is a chronic eye problem, homeopathic remedies is best used under the supervision of a holistic vet.

The following remedies can be safely used in conjunction with other treatments to help speed up recovery of this eye condition.

One simple way to help lubricate your dog's eyes is to use cod liver oil. Place one to two drops directly in the eye daily. Also, feed orally about one-eighth teaspoon per ten pounds of body weight daily. Cod liver oil is rich in vitamins A and D as well as essential omega-3 and 6 fatty acids.

To help prevent eye infections caused by bacteria and to flush dirt from the eyes, you can make an herbal eyewash. You need:

  • One cup of boiled distilled water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 10 drops of a tincture of one of these herbs: Calendula, Echinacea, Eyebright, or St. John's wort.

To make the eyewash, add the salt to the boiled water. Allow to cool. Add the herbal tincture to the cup of water and use it as an eyewash for your dog.

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Effective Natural Herbal Products

If you do not want to make your own eyewash, consider getting this excellent product:

Eyes So Bright is a gentle natural eyewash formulated to cleanse pet eyes by safely removing debris and encrustations. In addition, it promotes healing of sore, inflamed, and infected eyes. It contains anti-inflammatory and immune-strengthening herbs such as aloe vera, goldenseal, echinacea, and gotu kola.

Internally, you can also use herbs to help treat eye conditions such as dry eye and eye infections. Take a look at this herbal product:

This herbal formula contains a lot of herbs (such as Polygonatum, Lycium, Chrysanthemum, Rehmannia, White peony) that have been used for many years in China to treat numerous eye conditions. It is beneficial for such eye conditions as dry eye, eye infections/inflammation, conjunctivitis, etc.