Something To Cry About
We certainly take them for granted: those bright shiny eyes staring up at us in adulation. But it sure is sad when those same eyes are dull and coated with thick greenish mucus.
"Dry eye," or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), is actually one of the most common eye problems seen in veterinary medicine. It is also one of the more frustrating ones. Dry eye pains the dog, requires medication four to six times each day, and can cause gradual sight loss if owners forget to give the prescribed ointments or eye drops.
Simply put, KCS occurs when the eyes lack moisture due to a problem with tear production. Tears are actually more complex than most people realize. They are composed of three distinct layers. The outer layer is the lipid oily covering, which prevents evaporation of the underlying watery layer.
The middle layer is the aqueous layer. The aqueous is secreted by the lacrimal glands in the orbit and by the gland in the third eyelid. This layer actually makes up most of the tear volume and contains water, electrolytes, glucose, urea, polymers, glycoproteins, and tear proteins like globulins, albumin and lysozyme for the lubrication and hydration of the cornea.
The mucin layer is the deepest layer and is a hydrated glycoprotein made by the goblet cells in the conjunctiva. This mucin fills in any irregularities in the corneal surface to provide an optically smooth ocular surface. Additionally, bacteria and viruses get caught in the mucoproteins.
In addition to their protective role, tears function to carry oxygen and nutrients to the cornea. A healthy cornea is clear. Unlike other tissues, it lacks blood vessels to provide nutrients.
When the tear film is disrupted, the traumatized cornea may have pigment infiltration and blood vessel invasion. These structures obscure vision. Because of the lack of protection, the cornea is prone to injuries and ulcer formation. These can result in the formation of scar tissue, which further obscures vision.
KCS results from a deficiency in the aqueous tear film. It manifests as drying and inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva and in ocular pain. Dogs typically present with conjunctivitis or pink eye, thick white to greenish mucoid ocular discharge, ocular discomfort, and, if it has been chronic, corneal vascularization, pigment deposition, and scarring. In most cases, the onset is gradual and the eyes appear red and inflamed.
There are several reasons that KCS occurs. The most common type of KCS is due to genetic predisposition. Breeds like American cocker spaniels, English bulldogs, West Highland white terriers, pugs, Yorkshire terriers, Pekinese, miniature schnauzers, and English springer spaniels, are most commonly affected.
Other causes of KCS include infection with the canine distemper virus, inflammation of the lacrimal glands, and a drug reaction -- especially after the use of sulfonamide medication. In addition, removal of the gland of the third eyelid, inflammation of the orbit, nerve damage, or even endocrine diseases such as Cushings disease, diabetes mellitus, or hypothyroidism, can cause "dry eye."
Your veterinarian may perform several tests to diagnose KCS. The most common is Schirmer's tear test (STT), which measures the ability of the eye to produce aqueous tears. The STT involves placing the end of a strip of special paper into eye and monitoring the amount of tears produced. In a normal dog, the paper quickly becomes wet with the tears produced; in those with severe KCS, no wetness may appear. There can be fluctuations in the STT values, but only weekly variations are considered significant. Dogs can also have deficiencies of the lipid and mucin portion of the tears and exhibit signs of KCS and yet have normal STT results.
Your veterinarian may also use stains to evaluate the health of the cornea. Fluorescein and Rose bengal stains are the most commonly used. They color devitalized cells or defects in the cornea.
Primary treatment of this disease is medical, and there are several different options. Most often, dogs with KCS are placed on tear supplementation. Artificial tears contain compounds that mimic both the aqueous and mucin components of tears. They moisten the eye and the ocular lubricants further protect the cornea. These medications can be effective, but their big drawback is that they must be applied four to six times a day.
Many dogs also are given antibiotic ointments or drops, which control the bacterial overgrowth that occurs with KCS due to the eye's lack of natural cleansing abilities.
Anti-inflammatory medications such as steroids are often used to minimize the conjunctivitis, to make the dog's eyes more comfortable, and help to reduce some of the corneal opacities associated with KCS. Because there are side effects to the long-term use of steroids, administration of these drugs must be monitored by your veterinarian. Steroids control the symptoms well, but they cannot be used if there is any ulceration of the cornea, a problem that commonly accompanies KCS.
One of the biggest breakthroughs in treatment of KCS is the use of cyclosporine. This medication is thought to modulate the immune system, but its method of action is poorly understood. A small amount of ointment is placed in the eyes twice daily. Treatment for several weeks is needed before results are observed, but the drug is reported to be about 75 percent effective. With this treatment, though, lifelong and consistent therapy is necessary. Use of cyclosporin can even help to reverse some of the pigment changes common in KCS eyes.
Other medical treatments include the use of oral pilocarpine, which stimulates tear production, and mucolytics to control the copious overproduction of mucus. Mucolytics decrease the amount of exudation and facilitate cleaning of the excess mucus that is not washed out the lacrimal system.
For those dogs that do not respond to medical treatment, there are surgical options, including a procedure called a parotid duct transposition. With this surgery, the duct from the salivary gland is actually relocated so that the saliva secreted bathes the eye. Because saliva and tears are actually similar fluids, this procedure can be very effective. One interesting side effect to this procedure is that when your dog gets hungry, his eyes water.
Another procedure is a permanent partial tarsorrhapy. With this method, by partially suturing the eyelids closed, exposure to evaporation and the elements decreases.
In most dogs, KCS is a controllable condition. With good ocular hygiene that keeps the eyes free of debris, appropriate medication, and help from a motivated owner, who knows? Maybe the stars will return to your dog's eyes.
Animal Laws & Regulations
The rules and regulations that govern your pet are dependant on where you live. There are a few national laws that deal generally with commercial practices and breeding. States can also have similar regulations on breeding and commercial facilities.
Typically they also define cruelty standards and penalties. Many states specifically permit service/guide dogs access to areas typically off limits to pets. While some states have more specific animal laws, it is local cities and towns that typically control most of the everyday animal laws.
Nuisance laws or ‘good neighbor laws’ are common at the local level. These laws consist of but are not limited to leash laws, scooper laws, barking or disturbance laws, and containment laws. As their name would suggest these laws are created for general good, health and happiness of the community. Town and some states can also legislate for a variety of additional purposes.
These laws can control things such as the number of pets a person can own. Licensing of animals is also a local function. Breeding can also be regulated at the local level. Oddly enough in a few communities the label of pet owner has officially been changed to pet guardian. While the intent is to provide pets with better care, the trade off in ownership rights is not always welcome.
Breed restrictions have become more common. This is typically a reaction to dog bites or attacks. Pit Bulls are the most commonly restricted breed, yet the ‘Pit Bull’ classification is unclear and can often include a number of dogs that have a Pit Bull-like appearance. This is particularly unfortunate for responsible owners whose pets have been properly trained and socialized, and are kept contained and/or restrained. These communities sometimes end up banning several breeds of dog in an attempt to control bites or attacks. However, this isn’t always effective because most breeds of dog can be raised and/or trained to be aggressive. Typically responsible ownership is a better predictor of a well adjusted safe pet than the breed. Calling your local animal control or talking with a local vet is often a good place to find out what laws pertain to you and your pet.
Health at Home
Dog Grooming at Home
Veterinarian Carol Osborne demonstrates the best way to groom and wash dogs at home, with a minimum of effort and mess.
• Good grooming begins with a good diet. In general, dry foods are superior to canned foods. Avoid foods with high water content.
• The kitchen sink is a perfect shampoo station for smaller dogs. For larger dogs try outside with the garden hose in the summer and the bathtub in the winter.
• After a shampoo, towel dry your dog. Blow dryers tend to unnerve them and it could get too hot.
• Never use scissors to cut an animal's hair. They often squirm and one wrong move could lead to serious injury. Use hair clippers with an attachment.
• If possible, have another person handy to hold the animal in place and soothe them when trimming their hair.
• If you are clipping a dog's nails, purchase specially made nail clippers for dog's claws.
St. Louis Critter Sitters
Wheat-free Salmon Treats
• 1 can Salmon with juice -- (8 oz.)
• 1/2 cup Chopped parsley
• 3 Eggs -- shells included
• ½ cup Sesame seeds ground up in
• ½ cup Flax seeds ground up in
• 2 cups Potato flour -- (2 to 3)
Put these ingredients into a food processor, mix VERY WELL. Pour potato flour through the opening while the motor is running. I can't tell you exactly how much, but I would guess about 2-3 cups. When the dough forms, like a pie curst, and rolls into a ball it is ready to take out.
Dump this mess onto potato floured counter or board. Knead more flour into this and when it is a rolled out cookie consistency, it is ready to roll out into about 14 inch thick. I use a pizza cutter to roll our long strips and then cut crosswise to make small squares. If you want FANCY you may use a cookie cutter.
Bake on cookie sheets, sprayed Pam or line the sheet with parchment paper. I put in as many as will fit. Usually two whole cookie sheets will suffice. I bake this in a 375º oven for 20 min. Turn and rotate the cookie sheets and bake about 10 more minutes. You can make them as soft or as hard as you want.