Though you may not see your pup weeping, make no mistake: His eyes produce tears, one of the ways his body protects his eyes. When his eyes don't generate enough lubricating film, he has keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye, resulting in inflamed, irritated eyes. Whether you go with a natural remedy or a prescription, you and your vet can help your dog see clearly.
Though your dog may not cry in sadness or joy, tears play an important part in keeping his eyes healthy. They're effective at lubricating the cornea and wiping away debris that may damage his eyes. There are a variety of reasons why a dog may not have adequate tear film, including diseases such as distemper or thyroid problems, allergies, autoimmune disease, infections and reactions to medication. Common signs of dry eye include discharge, excessive blinking, a prominent third eyelid and swelling in the tissue surrounding the eye. Traditional prescription medications to treat dry eye include cyclosporine and tacrolimus, which stimulate tear production and protect the cornea.
If you prefer to go the natural route for lubricating your dog's eyes, talk to your vet about herbs or homeopathic treatment. Your vet may recommend a drop or two of cod liver oil in your dog's eyes once a day, supplemented with the same oil added to his food -- about an 1/8 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight. Herbal eye washes can clear dirt from your dog's eyes; calendula, echinacea, St. John's wort and eyebright are all options for making an eyewash. Simply add ¼ teaspoon of salt to a cup of boiled distilled water, stirring to dissolve the salt. Allow the water to cool and add 10 drops of your preferred herb tincture to the water. You can clean your pup's eyes gently with a sterile gauze pad soaked in the solution or put a few drops in his eyes for relief.
For Your Eyes Only
If you've ever suffered from dry eye, you know there are a host of remedies available to you at the local drugstore. However, resist the temptation to share your medicine with your dog. Dr. Karen Becker of HealthyPets.com notes that though your vet may recommend an over-the-counter product for your dog, never use human eye products unless it's been blessed by the vet. What's safe for you may not work for your pup.
The Vet Cures the Cause
Though home remedies may be effective at clearing your dog's dry eyes, it's wise to use them under your vet's watchful eyes. Since many of the causes of dry eye are rooted in other conditions, such as infections, disease or allergies, you may end up treating only his symptoms. Veterinary oversight helps ensure you'll not only address your pup's dry eyes, but also the underlying cause.