Pet Care Basics

Dry Eye in Dogs

By The Revival Education Team

August 2, 2016

brown dog

Dry Eye, also known as Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS in dogs), is caused by inadequate tear production. Tears help keep the eye healthy and keep away eye infections. Dogs with inadequate tear production often suffer from irritated eyes. They are very prone to ulcers and infection from the lack of tear production. This condition is relatively common in dogs, especially with Lhasa Apsos, Shih-Tzus, Cocker Spaniels, Pugs, Pekingese, Bulldogs, and West Highland White Terriers.

Causes of Dry Eye in Dogs

Many cases of dry eye do not have a known cause. The tear glands simply stop functioning, or it may be an inherited condition. Other causes may include infection or trauma to the eye or tear glands, drug use, removal of the third eyelid, other eye conditions such as conjunctivitis, nerve damage, an immune disorder, or the viral disease distemper.

Symptoms of Dry Eye in Dogs

Symptoms of dry eye include recurrent eye infections and a thick, yellowish discharge. You may also observe excessive blinking, inflammation of the cornea, and chemosis (swelling of the inside of the eyelids and surface of the eye).


A veterinarian tests for dry eye by using a Schirmer tear test to measure tear production. The veterinarian places a strip of absorbent material in the eye and leaves it there for about a minute. During this time, the tears collect on the strip. Then the veterinarian can measure the amount of tear production and decide if it is inadequate.

Dry Eye Treatment for Dogs

There is no cure for dry eye, but the issue can be managed. Usually the cause of dry eye cannot be identified, so treatment involves getting the pet to make more tears and wetting the eye. Cyclosporine (Rx Optimmune Ophthalmic Ointment) is used by both humans and dogs to treat dry eye, and it works by managing inflammation and increasing tear production. You can also wet the eye with an eye ointment or eye drop that replaces tears.

If left untreated, the pet will suffer from painful eye infections and may end up blind. Because there is no cure, you usually have to treat dry eye for the rest of a pet’s life.

If you need help with how to help a dog with dry eye, call us at 800.786.4751.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.