Goopy or Teary Eyes in Pets
Just like people, dogs can have eye discharge. It can be thick or watery, sometimes it’s just in the morning, and sometimes it’s breed-related. Sometimes it’s completely harmless, but sometimes it’s a symptom of a medical condition.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS)
KCS, or Chronic Dry Eye in layman’s terms, is a chronic, painful, and potentially severe condition. It caused by reduction in tear production which can be resulted from canine Distemper virus infection, sulfonamide toxicity, NSAID therapy, long term using of atropine, facial nerve injury, and immune mediated diseases. Frequently, the only symptom owners notice is mucoid thick white or yellow discharge from one or both eyes. In some dogs, the sclera (white part of the eye) can be red. Some dogs will rub their eyes, either with a paw or by rubbing their face on the carpet or on furniture. In longer-haired breeds such as Poodles, the hair around the eye can become matted from the discharge.
KCS can be confused with other problems, such as allergies, but there is a quick and painless test that can diagnose the condition. The Schirmer Tear Test uses little strips of a special paper to measure tear production. If the eye doesn’t produce enough tears, it won’t be properly lubricated and can cause irritation. In most cases veterinarians run Fluorescein Eye staining test to rule out corneal ulceration. Untreated, KCS can cause permanent damage to the eye. It can result in darkening of the cornea, corneal ulcers, corneal scarring, and chronic pain. Severe changes can cause vision loss, and some dogs may become fearful or aggressive about their face being touched due to the pain.
Treatment for KCS is fairly simple, but is usually lifelong. Your dog will need eye drops to help the eye produce tears, and can also benefit from moisturizing eye drops or a lubricating ointment. Sometimes your vet may use topical immunosuppressant agent such as Cyclosporine A 0.2%-2% bid in conjunction with short term use antibiotic eye drops or ointments. With treatment, your dog will be comfortable and pain free.
Your dog’s eye can also develop discharge if there is or was something in the eye. It can be anywhere from a bit of dust or an eyelash to a piece of grit or sliver of wood. If your dog doesn’t normally have eye discharge, its sudden appearance can signal a problem. If your dog got something in their eye, the eye will water in an attempt to flush it out. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, it’s worth having it checked out. Even if the matter comes out on its own, there is the possibility that it scratched the eye while it was in there. Your veterinarian can do a quick test to make sure there is no injury or ulceration. A Fluorescein Eye Stain test will show any abrasions, ulcers, or other irregularities, as the stain sticks to damaged areas of the cornea. The vet will then examine the eye with a light to determine where, if anywhere, the stain indicates a problem. Foreign matter can usually be flushed out with a saline eye wash, and if there is no damage to the eye, that’s the end of it. Any damage will require further treatment.
Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the lining of the eye. It can be caused by allergies, injury, KCS, foreign matter, bacterial, Chlamydia, fungal, or viral infection, and many other things. Signs can include red eyes, inflammation, any kind of eye discharge, excessive blinking, squinting the affected eye, crustiness around the eye, pawing or rubbing the eye, or even keeping it completely closed. The first step is generally to flush the eye to make sure there is no foreign matter. Your veterinarian may also do a Schirmer Tear Test and/or a Fluorescein Eye Stain. Depending on the cause, treatment can include pain medication, antibiotics, eye wash, antihistamine, or other medications such as Lysine oral supplement that believed having antiviral effect against feline herpes virus.
Epiphora (Runny Eyes)
Excessive tearing is characterized by watery, teary eyes. It will often stain the fur, and can result in a wet, gooey mess and even infected skin. It can be caused by allergies, irritating dust, trauma, corneal ulcers, Feline upper respiratory infection, conjunctivitis, eye inflammation (ophthalmitis), abnormal eyelashes (entropion is a condition where the eyelid rolls inwards causing the eyelashes to rub against the eye), tear duct problems, and sometimes simply the way the dog’s eyes sit in their face. Stubby-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs are more prone to congenital epiphora. If the problem is caused by inflammation or infection it can be treated medically, but it is because a physical defect or tear duct problem, eye surgery may be necessary.
Genetics, physical characteristics, various eye diseases and some systemic diseases can call cause watery or goopy eyes. It’s important to have all eye problems evaluated by a veterinarian, particularly if they appear suddenly. Sometimes treatment is as simple as keeping the area around the eye clean to prevent skin infections, and can be as significant as surgery to correct a serious problem.
If you are looking for a vet clinic in Newmarket, call us at 905-898-1010.
World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2005: Canine Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca