Certain dog breeds, including cocker spaniels, are genetically predisposed to a condition called keratoconjunctivitis sicca (known as KCS or dry eye), most commonly caused by immune-mediated destruction of the tear-producing glands of the eyes. Inadequate tear production leads to an inflamed and dry cornea, irritated conjunctival tissues, and a thick, yellow discharge.
Dr. Emily Adamson recently answered a San Francisco Chronicle reader’s Ask the Vet question on the topic of eye problems in dogs:
Q: Six months ago I rescued a 7 1/2-year-old cocker spaniel. She has a foul-smelling secretion from her eyes. My vet prescribed a low-dosage antibiotic that only marginally lessened the condition. I try to keep the area clean with a flea comb and eye wipes purchased at a pet supply store, but nothing seems to help. Any suggestions?
A: Disease processes that affect the protective barriers to the eye, such as the cornea, conjunctiva and eyelids, often cause a foul-smelling ocular discharge. Cocker spaniels are genetically predisposed to a condition called keratoconjunctivitis sicca (known as KCS or dry eye), most commonly caused by immune-mediated destruction of the tear-producing glands of the eyes.
Inadequate tear production leads to an inflamed and dry cornea, irritated conjunctival tissues, and a thick, yellow discharge. Over time, the cornea will become discolored in an attempt to protect itself, which can ultimately lead to blindness. Tear production is measured in our pets as part of the ophthalmic exam using the Schirmer’s Tear Test. A strip of paper is placed into the lower eyelid, and tear production is measured over a fixed period of time. Once a diagnosis has been made, immunomodulating eye drops and ointments are used to suppress the immune destruction and restore tear production. Artificial tears are often used as an adjunctive treatment, and antibiotics may be prescribed if there is a secondary bacterial infection present.
Other conditions that cause a thick ocular discharge include corneal ulcers, chronic corneal irritation from a misdirected eyelash or hair surrounding the eye, abnormal eyelid conformation, allergies, and infectious and neoplastic processes. Your veterinarian can perform a thorough physical and ophthalmic examination to reach a diagnosis and guide appropriate treatment.
A complete ophthalmic examination includes viewing the eyelids and conjunctiva under magnification, the Schirmer’s Tear Test (as described above), fluorescein stain application to identify any defects or ulcerations to the corneal surface, and the measurement of intraocular pressures. If more advanced diagnostics and treatments are necessary, your regular veterinarian can refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist in your area.
- Source article: Spaniel may have dry eye – try ophthalmic exam (SFGate.com)
- More: Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) or Dry Eye in Dogs