Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS)
Winter 1994 Bulletin
by Karen Leshkivich

KCS is a common problem among bloodhounds, in fact they are 5th on the list of breeds most likely to develop KCS.  What is KCS--it is most commonly known as 'dry eye'.  The problem is that there is insufficient tear production to keep the eye moist and lubricated.  The dogs eyes will appear to have dry corneas as opposed to the normal shiny, wet cornea.  They often have a ropy, white discharge at the corner of the eyes.  As the disease progresses, their cornea become opaque or colored more darkly, this is referred to as corneal pigmentation and neovascularization.  In some cases, they may develop corneal ulcers.  KCS can have many causes, the primary one being that they are a bloodhound and the breed is predisposed to developing KCS, also things such as distemper infection, sulfa drugs, trauma to the eye, and lacrimal glad removal (or 'cherry eye' removal) can also lead to KCS.

In order to determine if your dog has KCS, a simple test called the Schirmer tear test can determine how much tear production your dog has.  If when you look at your dogs eyes, they appear dry, or the corneas are not shiny and clear, or if there is a lot of discharge from the eyes, you should suspect KCS.

If KCS is left untreated, your bloodhound can become clinically blind.  As the opacity and pigmentation of the corneas progress, your dog will not be able to see more than shadows between light and dark.  I know many people joke about the fact that most bloodhounds act as if they were blind, always following their nose and ignoring the tree or parked car in their path, so they need to preserve all of the sight that they do have.

There have been many treatments for KCS, and there is a new treatment that is very exciting.  Traditionally, treatment consists of topical artificial tears or ointments, but this requires application every few hours to be effective. Pilocarpine given orally has also been prescribed, as well as topical antibiotics if there is evidence of infection, or corticosteroids if persistent inflammation is a problem.  A relatively new drug for treatment of KCS is cyclosporine A.  This drug has been used in human medicine for years as an immunosuppressant for cancer treatment.  Cyclosporine A has been found to be effective in treating KCS, although the exact mechanism of how it works is still not clear.  It increases the tear production dramatically with only twice a day or even once a day application.  This drug is currently supplied by a few pharmacies and veterinary medical colleges across the country and will soon be available through a major pharmaceutical company in ointment form.  Since it is a new drug, it is still relatively expensive, but the dramatic results and improvement in the well being and sight of the dogs is well worth it.