Natural tears are essential lubrication for eyes. Tears also have other functions in that they carry vital nutrients and oxygen, they lubricate and cleanse- helping to remove debris and they also help protect against infection.
With insufficient tears, eyes become dry, uncomfortable and prone to damage.
Conjunctivitis is common, also ulceration of the cornea- the clear part at the front of the eye. As a result, new blood vessels can grow over the cornea and it can become dark and pigmented. The condition is often very painful and ultimately can lead to blindness.
Dry-eye occurs when the immune system of the dog recognises the tear producing glands as foreign and begins to destroy the gland. This can progress, if untreated into a permanent loss of function.
The condition is important to diagnose early
Not all cases of dry-eye look the same so are often difficult to recognise- see the picture above of two different dogs with the problem. Approximately 1 in 20 dogs are affected.
It is therefore important to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you suspect any eye problem. The good news is a simple test can diagnose and with life-long treatment sight can be preserved.