Dry Eyes!

March 29, 2012

Cassie is a 9 year old West Highland White Terrier. For several years now, Cassie has suffered from a condition called dry eye. Dry eye occurs when the tear gland produces insufficient quantities of tears. Most of us think of tears as being produced when we cry but actually, the body should produce tears all the time to help to lubricate the eye. The tears are an essential component of the eyes immune system, helping the eye to defend itself against infections.

Certain breeds, such as Westies, can be prone to “dry eye” because their immune system damages their own tear gland tissue. Dry eyes can lead to discomfort and can be prone to infections. Over a period of time, the irritation to the cornea, the surface of the eyeball, can lead to blindness.

Most dogs respond well to a special eye ointment which stimulates the tear gland to produce greater quantities of tears. Cassie had been on that eye medication for many years but her condition progressed so that it no longer worked. Artificial tears can be applied to the eye but they need to be applied every couple of hours and so there are few pet owners who have a lifestyle that would allow good control with artificial tears alone.

After discussion with the owners, we agreed to look at a different solution called a Parotid Duct Transplant. The Parotid Duct is a fine tube, about 1 mm thick, which drains saliva from a salivary gland by the ear into the corner of the mouth. This duct can be elevated and re-routed so that it enters the eye. Effectively, the saliva from that gland will be discharged into the eye and, while saliva is not an exact match for tears, it works as a good replacement.

Cassie was admitted to the surgery at Maple Street on Monday. Her surgery took over 3 hours as I painstakingly dissected the duct from its surrounding tissues. The duct is incredibly fragile but was re-routed without mishap and Cassie was sent home that evening. If she has no complications, her eye should improve over the next couple of weeks and we will be looking to repeat the proceedure on the other side in about four weeks time.

 

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