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Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca) in Cats

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Treatment: For many years, the frequent application of artificial tears was the only treatment available for dry eye. But use of ophthalmic cyclosporin has revolutionized treatment and greatly improved results. Cyclosporin reverses, or at least halts, the immune-mediated destruction of the lacrimal glands.

Cyclosporin ointment is applied to the surface of the affected eye. The frequency of application must be determined by your veterinarian. The result is not immediate. Artificial tears and topical antibiotics should be continued until the Schirmer tear test indicates that the volume of tears is adequate. Treatment is life-long.

When damage to the lacrimal glands leaves little or no functioning tissue, cyclosporin is not likely to be effective. This is also true if your cat’s problem does not have an immune basis. Artificial tears (drops and ointments) prescribed by your veterinarian must then be instilled into the cat’s eyes several times a day for life. Ointments are less expensive and do not need to be applied as frequently as drops. Saline drops should not be used because they aggravate the problem by washing away the lipid layer of the tear film.

Surgical treatment can be considered as a last resort, when medical management fails. The operation involves transplanting the duct of the parotid salivary gland up into the corner of the eye. The saliva takes the place of the tears. The operation has several significant disadvantages. One is that the volume of tears may be more than the drainage system can handle. This can result in a watery eye and the accumulation of mineral deposits on the cornea and face.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

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