Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), or dry eye, is common in dogs and can also affect cats. KCS is caused by a problem with the quantity or quality of the tear film. The condition is uncomfortable and can cause blindness. For most patients, KCS is managed with lifelong eye medication.
Tears are produced by glands in the eyelids and third eyelid. The tear film contains water, mucus, and oil. Deficiencies in any of the components of the tear film compromise its functions: lubricating the cornea (the clear structure at the front of the eye), removing debris, and providing nutrition to the cornea.
Anything that affects the tear-producing glands can cause KCS. Brachycephalic (flat-faced) animals with protruding eyes that aren’t completely covered by the eyelids also develop KCS symptoms because of excessive water evaporation from the surface of the cornea. These are some of the causes of KCS:
Animals with KCS typically have thick, sticky eye discharge. The discharge is thick because the watery part of the tear film is decreased or absent, so the tear film that remains is made mostly of mucus and oil. Either 1 or both eyes are affected, depending on the cause of the KCS.
Tear film deficiencies increase the risk for corneal ulcers, long-term damage to the cornea, and impaired healing of the cornea. These are signs of KCS and the resulting corneal damage:
The tear film quantity is measured with the Schirmer tear test, in which a sterile paper strip with measurement markings is placed inside the lower eyelid for 1 minute. The distance that the tear film is absorbed along the strip shows whether the animal has low tear production. Veterinary ophthalmologists use other tests to find out whether a patient has a problem with tear film quality.
Animals with KCS are treated with a combination of eye medications, most of which need to be applied 2 or 3 times a day. Medications include tear stimulants that reduce immune-mediated inflammation, tear replacements to lubricate the eye, and other medications to treat corneal damage. KCS can be managed but not cured, so medical treatment needs to continue for the rest of the animal’s life.
For animals whose KCS doesn’t respond to eye medication, a few surgical options are available. The most common of these is parotid duct transposition, which involves rerouting a salivary duct from the mouth to the inside of the lower eyelid so the animal basically drools onto the eye. This procedure is performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist.
Image source: Jennifer Shishmanian on Unsplash
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Dogs and cats need regular dental care, including thorough oral exams and dental cleanings. These procedures are best done under general anesthesia, but some pets don’t receive the dental care they need because their owners are worried about the safety of anesthesia. Most animals handle anesthesia well, though, and the risk is greatly reduced with preanesthetic testing, safe anesthetic drugs, and monitoring during the procedure.
Reasons for Dental Anesthesia
General anesthesia during a dental procedure allows for better medical care, reduces an animal’s stress and pain, and makes the procedure safer for everyone.
Before an animal undergoes anesthesia, the benefits of the procedure are weighed against the possible risks. Although general anesthesia is safe overall, its risks range from minor drug effects that can be anticipated and managed to potentially fatal complications, which are rare.
Animals receive a thorough physical exam before anesthesia and might also have preanesthetic laboratory tests. Preanesthetic tests are especially important for senior animals—the age group most often having dental procedures—because liver, kidney, and heart function all affect anesthesia risk.
During the procedure, vital signs like heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation, and blood pressure are monitored. The patient’s level of anesthesia is also monitored and can be adjusted as needed.
If your pet will be having anesthesia, tell the veterinarian all of the medications and supplements your pet is getting at home. Your veterinarian will also need to know if your pet has ever had problems with anesthesia in the past. If your pet has been to more than one clinic, be sure the anesthetizing veterinarian has your pet’s complete medical records and knows of any history of breathing trouble, heart conditions, seizures, or other medical problems.
Problems With Anesthesia-Free Dental Scaling
Some places offer dental scaling without anesthesia, but this procedure isn’t in an animal’s best interest.
Photo by mahyar mirghasemi on Unsplash
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
The contents of this blog are for information only and should not substitute for advice from a veterinarian who has examined the animal. All blog content is copyrighted by Mallard Creek Animal Hospital and may not be copied, reproduced, transmitted, or distributed without permission.