Dry Eyes in Boston Terriers – What Is It & What To Do About It


Boston Terrier red eyes

Did you know that dry eye is extremely common in Boston Terriers affecting up to 1 out of every 50 Boston Terriers.

In this article, we will review what you need to know about dry eyes and what to do about it if you think your Boston has dry eyes.

A Complete Guide To Boston Terrier Dry Eyes

Dry eye is essentially a decrease in the normal tear production that can cause irritation and inflammation of the eye. This is a long-term condition that Boston Terriers may be more predisposed to than other dog breeds.

Symptoms of this condition can range from thick mucus discharge and eye redness to discomfort in the eyes.

This complete guide to Boston Terrier dry eyes will review causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for dry eyes.

Boston Terrier red eyes painful keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS

What Is Dry Eye In Boston Terriers?

Dry eye is a common eye condition diagnosed in dogs that, as the name suggests, results in eyes that are dry. This condition is also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS for short. 

The cause for dry eyes is the tear production is too low and can occur in one or both eyes. The most common reason this happens is because of an immune-mediated condition, meaning the body is attacking itself resulting in a decrease in tear production.

Certain medications like sulfa drugs can also cause dry eyes; although, this seems to be relatively uncommon.

This decrease in tear production causes inflammation and irritation of the surface of the eye and can also lead to secondary infections of the eyes. 

Lack of tears within the eyes can also lead to corneal ulcers or scratches in the eye.

Want to learn more about other common Boston Terrier health issues? Read this article, 10 Common Boston Terrier Health Issues.

Boston Terrier Dry Eyes Symptoms

The symptoms of dry eye in Bostons are related to the decreased tear production. Often the eyes will appear to have a lot of thick mucus in them and may also be red and irritated.

Common Symptoms Of Dry Eye In Boston Terriers:

  • Thick Mucus Eye Discharge
  • Redness Of The Eye
  • Eye Appears Dry
  • Squinting
  • Brown Pigment On The Surface Of The Eye
  • Green Or Yellow Eye Discharge
  • Pawing At The Eye
Boston Terrier red eyes

Are Dry Eyes Painful To My Boston Terrier?

Dry eyes can be painful for Bostons. 

Because there are not enough tears in the eye, the eye can feel dry and uncomfortable. You may notice that your Boston is squinting or pawing at their eye.

In addition, dry eye can predispose Bostons to corneal ulcers which are extremely painful.

Anytime a dog has a painful eye, I consider this a medical emergency and recommend getting your Boston to the vet quickly. 

Some causes of painful eyes, like glaucoma, can lead to permanent blindness if not quickly treated.

How Long Do Dry Eyes In Dogs Typically Last? Is It Permanent?

Most cases of dry eye are permanent. Occasionally, some causes of dry eye may be reversible. It just depends on the underlying cause of the dry eye.

In my experience as a veterinarian, most cases of dry eyes in dogs need lifelong treatment with medications to control the symptoms. The good news is that there are many options available for the treatment of dry eye in dogs.

Boston Terrier red eyes keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS

Are Certain Dog Breeds More Prone To Dry Eyes?

Certain dog breeds are more prone to developing dry eyes including Boston Terriers. 

The Boston Terrier Club of America suggested that around 1 in every 50 Boston Terriers will develop dry eyes.

It is thought that there might be a genetic link to developing dry eyes in dogs which is why there is likely a breed predisposition to this disease.

Here is a list of the dog breeds that are more prone to developing dry eyes according to veterinary researchers.

Is Dry Eye In Dogs Contagious?

Dry eye is not contagious in dogs.

There are other eye conditions in dogs such as eye infections that can be contagious in dogs.

If your dog has a red or itchy eye, it would be a good idea to have it checked out by your veterinarian to make sure it isn’t anything contagious.

Boston Terrier red eyes diagnosed

How Is Boston Terrier Dry Eye Diagnosed?

If you suspect your Boston has dry eyes, the first step towards treatment is to visit a veterinarian. They will be able to run a quick and inexpensive test called a Schirmer Tear Test that will determine if your Boston has dry eyes.


The Schirmer Tear Test is a small piece of special paper your vet will place on your Boston’s eye. It will tell the vet how many tears your Boston’s eyes are producing. If under a certain amount, your vet will diagnose your Boston with dry eyes.

How Do I Treat My Boston Terrier With Dry Eyes?

After diagnosis, your vet will probably recommend starting with a topical eye medication called Optimmune (cyclosporine) or tacrolimus. These medications are specially formulated to help increase tear production in the eyes.


According to veterinary ophthalmology specialists from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (Best, Hendrix, and Ward), cyclosporine is effective at treating dry eyes in over 80% of dogs.

These medications can take a few months to kick in, so while waiting for these medications to work, your vet may recommend keeping your Boston’s eyes lubricated with an artificial tear solution like GenTeal Lubricant Eye Gel (Always Speak With Your Veterinarian Before Applying Any Medication To Your Dog).

After about a month of treatment with this medication, your vet will recheck the tear production in your Boston’s eyes to ensure that the medication is working.

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keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS boston terrier

Surgical Treatment Of Dry Eyes In Boston Terriers

If medical therapy does not work for your Boston, your veterinarian may recommend a surgical treatment for dry eyes called a parotid duct transposition

This procedure takes one of the salivary gland ducts and moves it to the eye where it will drain. Because it is now draining to the eye, your dog’s eye will stay wet with saliva which will control the symptoms of dry eye.

Video Of Parotid Duct Transposition (GRAPHIC)

In this video, a Yorkshire Terrier has the parotid duct transposition surgery due to the topical therapy being totally ineffective. (excuse the music)

What Is The Best Over The Counter Medication To Help My Dog With Dry Eyes?

Before placing any medication or substance in your dog’s eye, it is important to first consult with a veterinarian. Dogs’ eyes are very sensitive, and you want to check with your vet first to make sure that what you want to put in the eye is safe.


I have seen a dog’s eyes become severely ulcerated and become extremely painful because owners put medications in the eye that they shouldn’t have put in the eye.

That being said, your veterinarian may recommend an artificial tear solution like Puralube Vet Ointment or GenTeal Lubricant Eye Gel to ensure the eyes are staying moist while waiting for the other medications to start working.

These over the counter medications are not a permanent fix and will only keep the eyes mildly lubricated. For the best treatment, eye medications like Optimmune or cyclosporin will be necessary.

boston terrier drinking water

Does Drinking Water Help My Dog With Dry Eyes?

Drinking more water will likely not help your dog’s dry eye condition. Most cases of dry eye or KCS are caused by an immune-mediated underlying condition. Meaning the eyes will be unable to produce as many tears as normal.

Simply drinking more water will not help the tear production return to normal. Your dog will need to be treated with eye medications by a veterinarian to help with the dry eyes.

Will Providing Supplements Or Vitamins Help My Dog With Dry Eyes?

There is not much evidence to support the use of supplements or vitamins in the treatment of dry eyes in dogs. Very few studies have evaluated the effectiveness of supplements or vitamins in treating dry eyes.


If you are interested in trying a vitamin or a supplement for your dog, it is first important to speak with a veterinarian to see if that supplement or vitamin is safe for your pet. Pet supplements and vitamins have little to no regulation on what can go into them.

Your veterinarian may recommend trying an oral fatty acid supplement that you can put on the food to see if this helps at all with dry eyes. There is some research in humans that fatty acids may help with dry eyes.

boston terrier red eyes

Conclusions

Dry eye, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS, is an extremely common eye condition diagnosed in Boston Terriers that is caused by a decrease in tear production in one or both eyes. It can cause the eyes to have a thick mucus discharge, and the eyes can also appear red and irritated.

Dry eyes can be easily and inexpensively diagnosed by a veterinarian. The treatment for dry eyes in Bostons usually starts with a veterinary prescribed topical eye medication called Optimmune or cyclosporine.

This is typically a life-long condition that will require treatment for the rest of your Boston’s life. If you suspect your Boston might have dry eye, I recommend scheduling an appointment with a veterinarian as soon as possible.

References

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Addie Reinhard, DVM

Addie Reinhard, DVM- Dr. Addie Reinhard is an experienced small animal veterinarian. She is a Boston Terrier lover and always enjoys caring for her Boston patients at the veterinary clinic. She is passionate about providing helpful educational resources to pet parents regarding animal diseases and preventative care. She lives in Lexington, KY with her husband, greyhound, and four cats.

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