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Canine keratitis sicca

I thought I would take a turn from the usual blog post and share something about our beloved four-legged fur kid, Gryff.

Mostly because he’s a big part of our lives, but also because we are going on vacation in a few weeks and I started to get worried about boarding him. I always do. Call me the paranoid pet owner, but in a second, you’ll understand why I’m nervous about boarding him.

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About a year and a half ago, Gryff was diagnosed with keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or keratitis sicca. To you and me it’s better known as “doggie dry eye”. If not treated it could lead to blindness! :(

When we noticed

It started about 2 1/2 years ago when we noticed that every spring Gryff would have a discharge in his eyes – eye boogs we would call them. We would take him to our vet and they would do their routine check for ulcers in the eye, scratched corneas, and whatever else, but everything would come back clean. So they gave us a drop and send us home. While the drop did work and cleared up the gunk, we noticed it kept coming back.

After months and months of going through this cycle, our vet finally told us they were stumped and referred us to an animal ophthalmologist about an hour from our house near Lansing (the capital). One trip there and the doc said he had this condition.

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So what exactly is it?

It’s extreme dryness of the eye, to the point where Gryff’s tear ducts don’t produce tears. Or enough tears to help moisturize the eye. If not treated, the simple act of blinking can scratch the cornea and could result in blindness. Scary!

How is it caused?

We don’t really know. The most we can find online and after conversations with Dr. Ramsey is that it can just happen and it might hereditary or genetic. He actually told us only one place in the whole world would be able to not only find out what caused it, but also completely treat it – and that’s a vet hospital in Oxford, England.

So how do you treat it?

Dr. Ramsey prescribed several eye drops and medications for Gryff to use. Now he’s on 5 different medications, which he gets 3 times a day. It seems like a lot, but if it means he can see clearly, we’re all for it. He’s given his meds once in the morning (around 6:30/7 a.m.), then again at 4:30/5 p.m., and lastly at 11 p.m. Each medication is given to Gryff 5 minutes apart.

The medications

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  • Alpha Interferon – A refrigerated drop that cancer patients actually use when on chemotherapy to help keep moisture in the eyes and tear ducts. One drop in each eye 3 times a day.
  • Pilocarpine – A pill also used by some cancer patients undergoing chemo, which helps create saliva and moisture in the salivary glands. The salivary glands are hooked into your eye glands actually! Half a pill given before each meal (he eats twice a day, so one pill, total, a day)
  • Tobramycin Ophthalmic – A drop that helps prevent bacterial infections of the eye. One drop in each eye, once a day (we do it during his morning round of meds)
  • Tacrolimis – An anti-inflammatory eye drop to help stimulate the tear glands and prevent further decrease of  tissue. It’s a super oily drop, but it’s the one we notice seems to work almost immediately! One drop in each eye, 3 times a day.
  • Genteal Eye Gel – An eye gel for humans, found in the eye care aisle at any drug store or supermarket. One squeeze in each eye, throughout the day as needed.

So you can see my nervousness of the Petsmart Pet Hotel being able to do this for us. I assume they will do fine since I’m sure they get all kinds of dogs with medical problems coming in there, but I really do worry if they will do the meds on time. If they mess up or skip anything once, he could be a squinty pup for a while, which also hurts his eyes :(

The kind of bad news

Gryff will be on these drops for the rest of his life. He’s 4 1/2 now, so he’s got a lot of years and a lot of eye meds ahead of him. These drops and pills are also not cheap. The pilocarpine pill, since it is a human pill we get at the pharmacy, costs $50 for one month dosage or $150 for 3 months. His other drops range from $20-$40 each whenever a refill is needed. The Genteal which we get in the eye care aisle is $10-12 and we try to buy in bulk since we give that to him the most throughout the day.

The good news

Dr. Ramsey said Gryff is making great progress. The meds are clearly working and he’s even starting to see some tear production. It’s still not enough to warrant going off the drops, but it’s still great news. We used to have to take Gryff up to see him twice a year and now we just see him once a year to ensure no new developments have occurred.

Gryff will go on living a normal, healthy live as a happy pup. He doesn’t even care about the drops. I know some dogs would hate it, but I think he knows it helps him, so he never bites or fidgets when we are giving him the meds – a huge help if you ask me ;)

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Conclusion

Get your pet checked every year for their routine visit. If you are noticing the symptoms we noticed with Gryff, ask your vet if keratitis is a possibility. They should know what it is and can start testing for that, or refer you to a vet who can.

It’s scary to find out something is wrong with a family member, especially a pet. But the important thing is to stay calm and see about treatment. I am forever grateful to Dr. Ramsey and the fact that animal eyes are his specialty. My big fear, still, is that Gryff will go blind before he’s too old. He’s such a happy little dog and he didn’t ask for his, which is why REB and I are always very conscious of getting home on time if we’re out, in order to give him his meds.

He’s a big part of our lives, and we want him around for as long as time will allow!

I hope this was helpful and informative for dog owners and other corgi owners!