What is Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca??
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS), also known as "dry eye," is a medical term used to describe lack of or deficiency in the tear production that results in inflammation, pain and drying of the cornea. Cats with dry eye fail to produce adequate tears to keep their eyes lubricated and healthy. Tears serve two purposes: to wash away irritant particles and to supply the eyes with essential nutrients.
How does my cat get KCS?
Cats of any breed may suffer from KCS at any age. Research indicates that the prevalent contributor of this condition in cats is eye infections caused by feline herpesvirus. Other lesser causes include trauma to the tear glands, certain neurological disorders, chronic inflammation of the conjunctiva, removal of the third eyelid gland, radiation therapy, and in rare instances, side effects to certain medications. KCS can affect one or both eyes and untreated, can limit vision or lead to blindness.
How do I know if my cat has KCS?
Cats with KCS will have eyes that look dull and dry or appear to have a film covering. Affected cats tend to squint or blink frequently. You may also detect redness, a more visible third eyelid and pus-like discharge from one or both eyes. The nostrils may be crusty, too. The diagnosis is confirmed by your veterinarian based on results of a physical examination and diagnostic tests that include a Schirmer Tear Test and fluorescein staining of the eyes to detect signs of corneal ulcers or damage to the corneas.
What can I do about KCS??
Prompt medical treatment is vital to prevent permanent eye damage. Keep in mind that most cats with dry eye cannot be cured, but medications can control this disease. There may be a number of different drops used. Cyclosporine is the preferred drug for KCS. Other common medications used include artificial tears, antibiotics, and agents to break up the mucous. In rare instances, a cat may require surgery to reposition a salivary gland duct to the tear duct area. At home, it is vital to keep your cat’s eyes clean and free of discharge.
The majority of cats respond well to medication if the cat is treated before the dry eye(s) is too advanced. With some cats medication does not work and therefore surgery may be necessary. Medical treatment needs to be continuous and consistent and lifetime, with the goal to prevent a cat from losing their sight from KCS.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my cat from getting KCS?
Unlike with dogs, there are no specific cat breeds identified who have a genetic pre-disposition to KCS. However, keeping your cat’s eyes free of discharge and performing monthly at-home eye exams can help identify KCS early and improve the chances of controlling it. Also, contact your veterinarian immediately if you notice any changes in your cat’s eyes.
Are there certain breeds that get KCS more often?
No. Any cat of any age, gender or breed can develop KCS.