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Dear Christopher Cat

My cat has dry eye. My veterinarian prescribed cyclosporin ointment to increase tear production, but it is very expensive. What other options do I have?

Christopher Responds

Sorry, but cyclosporin is the treatment of choice for dry eye.

Daisy mentioned that it can be pricey. Both she and my new feline brother, Dougie, have dry eye, also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS).

KCS occurs when the surface of the eye becomes dry and inflamed because of decreased tear production.

In medical terminology, “kerato” refers to the cornea, the clear covering on the front of the eyeball. The conjunctiva is a thin membrane that covers the rest of the eye.
The suffix “itis” means inflammation, and “sicca” means dry.

The signs of KCS include a mucous or pus discharge from the eye. If the disease isn’t treated, painful ulcers may form on the cornea, the result of which can be blindness.
Cyclosporin is applied twice daily as either eyedrops or an ointment called Optimmune. If you use the ointment in both eyes at the recommended one-fourth inch of ointment per eye, the tube lasts about six to eight weeks.

Optimmune is available through veterinarians, catalogues and Internet pharmacies, so do compare prices. The eyedrops are compounded by some pharmacists, so you’ll want to check their prices as well.

Much less effective options are ointments or eyedrops that only lubricate the surface of the eye. Unfortunately, these products do not increase tear production.

They’re also inconvenient. Lubricant ointments must be applied every four hours, whereas lubricant eyedrops must be applied every hour or two.

If cyclosporin is ineffective, surgery is sometimes performed.

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