Keratoconjunctivitis sicca is the medical term used to describe a condition called “dry eye”. When pets suffer from this condition, they are unable to produce enough tears to lubricate and moisten the eye. This is a very painful condition, leaving the pet with the sensation that the eyes are full of grit or sand. It hurts every time they blink. Many pets will squint, as the eyes are more sensitive to light. Thick, sticky mucoid discharge will commonly coat the eyes. This is the body’s way of protecting the cornea, trying to prevent it from drying.
KCS can be a genetic problem or it can result from an immune-mediated attack against the glands that produce tears. The most common medications or eye drops used to treat the disease include cyclosporine, prednisone, and tacrolimus, all of which suppress the immune response, allowing inflammation to decrease in the eye and the tear glands. Unfortunately, for many pets, these medications must be used two to three times daily…for life. In addition to using medicated eye drops, lubricating drops need to be placed in the eye many times a day, which may be difficult to achieve for many pet owners.
If you need to use lubricating drops, I recommend looking for Genteal or Refresh gels, as these drops are water based. Most over the counter or veterinarian-prescribed ointments and gels are petroleum based. The petroleum may cause further irritation to the eyes. Gels and drops only provide relief for a short period of time, possibly no more than 15 to 30 minutes.
Pets with dry eye may show marked improvement when the diet is changed to support the problems. The liver is the ruler of the eyes, so liver support is essential. Because tears are moisture and moisture is Yin, Yin tonic foods will also help. Food ingredients that transform phlegm (the mucous produced by the eyes when tears are absent) will help moisten and improve tear flow.
Years ago I designed a dry eye diet for my little English Toy Spaniel, George. He was able to be taken off all medications and eye drops within three months of his diet change. While the response may not be as impressive in every dog, the diet may help make your pet more comfortable. All dry kibble food must be eliminated from the diet, as dry kibble promotes phlegm production and dryness.
Dry Eye Diet (excerpt from my new book which will be released in early December, 2017)
1 pound beef chopped or ground
3 ounces beef liver chopped or ground
3 ounces beef heart chopped or ground
4 ounces spinach or kale finely chopped or ground
3 ounces carrot finely chopped or ground
2 ounces clams rinsed well to remove salt
1 pear chopped or ground
2 teaspoons finely ground almonds
1 tablespoon ground peppermint or spearmint
Add 2 sardines canned in water at the time of feeding.
This diet can be ground and mixed together, cooking at 325° F. for 30 to 45 minutes in a loaf or square baking pan, cooked on low for 4 to 6 hours in a slow cooker, or fed raw.
A calcium/mineral supplement will be needed with this diet. For more information on balancing diets, pick up a copy of the new book when it becomes available.
Good treats include sardines, hard-boiled eggs, carrots, pears, and freeze-dried organs