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A bad case of dry eye

THIS BLOG DOES CONTAIN ‘GRAPHIC IMAGES OF A CORNEAL ULCER AND SUBSEQUENT SURGERY’, SO IF YOU’RE SQUEAMISH WITH EYES, PLEASE DO NOT SCROLL BEYOND THE TEXT!

When Susie’s owner, Mrs Jones, noticed that both her eyes were ‘sticky’ with some sort of discharge, their first thoughts were that perhaps she’d got some dust in them, or that she might have been suffering with a mild allergy and that it would pass. When the discharge failed to subside over a day or two, and when Susie became a little withdrawn, Mrs Jones acted without delay, thinking it best to have her checked by the vet. They came in for an appointment with our vet Hannah, and this is when the extent of Susie’s eye issues began to unfold resulting in delicate emergency eye surgery.

Susie is a 4 year old Lhasa Apso who is otherwise a bright, cheerful and healthy little dog. Hannah gave her a thorough examination from top to tail, and focusing especially on her eyes. Using an ophthalmoscope, a special piece of equipment that allows our vets to view the internal structures of the eye, as well as surface scratches and foreign bodies, Hannah systematically checked both eyes, aided by the use of an eye-safe dye which helps to illuminate any problems. She also carried out a tear-test to assess the eye’s natural ability to keep itself hydrated and moist. Hannah diagnosed Susie with a severe and acute onset of dry eye in both eyes. Susie’s tear glands were not working properly, unable to produce sufficient tears to lubricate the surface of her eyes. Consequently, her eyes had become ‘dry’ leaving them open to a whole host of problems. Susie presented with classic initial symptoms of dry eye with the ‘sticky’ discharge that her owner first noticed. Unfortunately Hannah also determined that her condition had progressed in a manner typical of the condition – she had deep ulcerations (cavities) to both corneas (the thin, transparent layer covering the iris and the pupil or the ‘windscreen’ of the eye). See the ‘before’ photos of Susie’s eyes. Hannah feared that if the ulceration was too deep, the cornea could burst and the damage would be irretrievable. This can lead to the affected eye having to be removed. With both eyes affected in this case, for obvious reasons this was a significant concern to both our vet and Susie’s owner.

Thankfully Susie’s ulcers were diagnosed just in time and we felt that we could save her eyes. However, the ulcerations were so significant that they required same-day emergency surgery by one of our lead Veterinary Surgeons, Michael. After some pre-emptive pain-killers and a sedative Susie went under a general anaesthetic monitored closely by our knowledgeable vet nurses so that we could debride (clean) and treat her ulcers. This skilful and delicate process involved grafting some of Susie’s own tissue directly onto the eyeballs (see ‘after’ photos). This tissue would act as a healing and protective ‘bandage’ over the delicate ulcers bringing with it a blood supply and support and accelerate the natural healing process

Susie made a great recovery in the immediate post-operative phase. In no small part due to the dedication of her owners who would medicate and protect her eyes, Susie’s ulcers continued to improve and have almost completely healed. Dry eye is not a condition for which there is a cure, so Susie will be on a life-long combination of eye drops to help stimulate and improve her natural tear production, as well as lubricants to keep her eyes moist and protected. Dry eye is not uncommon in dogs and there are certain breeds that have an increased risk of developing it. These include; Lhasa Apsos, Shih tzus, West Highland white terriers, Yorkshire terriers and cocker spaniels. 

Mrs Jones, has kindly given us permission to share their story in the hope that it will highlight to other unsuspecting owners just how quickly eye problems can deteriorate. What appeared to be a bit of ‘stickiness’ to the eye in this case, ended up posing a real and true threat to Susie’s eyesight and could even have resulted in her losing both eyes altogether. We very much share this sentiment and would urge owners to arrange a vet examination for any pet displaying any level of discomfort or discharge from one or both eyes. Never could the phrase ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ be truer than in a case like Susie’s.

THIS BLOG DOES CONTAIN ‘GRAPHIC IMAGES OF A CORNEAL ULCER AND SUBSEQUENT SURGERY’, SO IF YOU’RE SQUEAMISH WITH EYES, PLEASE DO NOT SCROLL ANY FURTHER AND LOOK AWAY NOW!