How to treat ‘dry eye’

Ask the Vet

Q: My vet says “Prissy”, my Pug, has ‘dry eye.’ She prescribed some eye medicine for Prissy, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Sometimes, I think she feels uncomfortable. What else can I do for her?

P.L., Farragut

A: ‘Dry eye’, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), does run in certain breeds, including Pugs. Dry eye occurs in dogs and cats that do not produce enough tears. The most common reason the disease occurs is an immune reaction in the lacrimal tissue (tear ducts) that decreases the pet’s ability to make their own tears. Other possible causes include abnormalities in the nerves that supply the tear ducts, viruses, trauma, and certain medications known to decrease tear production.

You did not mention which medication you are using for Prissy. The eye medication most often prescribed for dogs is cyclosporine. For some pets, it can take eight to 12 weeks for adequate tear production. If it has been longer than 12 weeks and you have not seen improvement, Prissy should have her tear production rechecked by your veterinarian.

For pets that don’t respond initially to cyclosporine, the strength of their medication can be increased. For some dogs, cyclosporine will not be sufficient, and a different medication may need to be prescribed. A few dogs are unresponsive to either medication, and these pets should be seen by a veterinary ophthalmologist before the disease progresses any further.

Clinical signs to watch for with Prissy include yellow or green discharge from the eye(s), red eyes, and corneal dullness. Some dogs will rub or paw at their eyes because they are itchy or uncomfortable. Secondary bacterial infections can also occur. Untreated dry eye (or unsuccessful treatment) can eventually result in corneal scarring and loss of vision, so please follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for rechecks and treatments. Prissy’s eyes will need lifelong treatment, and medications may need to be adjusted or changed, but this disease can generally be managed.

If you have questions about your pet, you may email Dr. Myers at