Loki’s Life in Shades
Our April star pet of the month goes to fashionista, Loki, and his ‘doggy sunglasses’. Read on to learn his story, written by his owner, Nicola.
The story begins in July last year when I brought Loki to see Dr Jo. He had contracted yet another eye infection; this one had followed a number of other eye infections which had been cropping up every few weeks. The infections would clear up with topical antibiotic treatment, only to return with a vengeance soon after.
Loki's eyes were generally quite sore, itchy and red even when they weren't infected, and he would aggressively rub his face on various surfaces around the house trying to soothe them. I had also worried that he was getting cataracts, as his beautiful hazel eyes were developing a dark film across the surface.
Dr Jo explained she suspected the underlying cause of all these issues was an autoimmune issue called dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca), which is a condition where the antibodies attack the tear ducts. This leads to reduced tear production, causing a number of symptoms including red, painful, irritated eyes, discolouration, discharge and recurrent eye infections. Dr Jo prescribed a topical cyclosporine-based ointment and we monitored his progress by doing a Schirmer test every few weeks. This is involved placing the tip of a small strip of filter paper with numbers printed on it (it looks like a tiny tape measure) under the eyelid, and holding it in place for a minute. The rate of tear production is indicated by how far the water in the tears travels up the Schirmer strip.
The Road to Recovery
Though there seemed to be a moderate degree of improvement, Dr Jo wasn't satisfied with the progress we were seeing. Loki was still getting eye infections and she wanted to do more investigating. She referred us to a colleague at the Ophthalmology department at the Royal Veterinary College. The ophthalmologist examined Loki and explained that while he was indeed symptomatic of dry eye, he couldn't rule out another condition called pannus (chronic superficial keratitis). This is also an autoimmune condition affecting the eye, with pannus affecting the cornea and often causing a pigmented layer of scarring like we were seeing on Loki's eyes. Pannus, like dry eye, also causes redness, vascularisation, irritation and pain. If left untreated, pannus can eventually scar the eye so badly that it can cause severe vision impairment or blindness.
Luckily, treatment for dry eye and pannus is the same. The vet prescribed a tacrolimus-based ointment (interestingly, among a range of other uses, tacrolimus is also prescribed to human organ transplant patients in order to prevent rejection of the transplanted tissue). We were also given strict instructions that Loki must wear doggy sunglasses if he ever goes outside during the daytime. This is because UV light rays exacerbate (and sometimes trigger) the disease.
We bought the goggles immediately and spent 2 weeks training Loki to gradually get used to wearing them. This, in combination with the new medicated ointment, has improved Loki's eyes immensely. The pigmentation on his corneas seems to be clearing (although it is unlikely to disappear entirely), he has stopped getting eye infections, and now looks like the coolest dog in the park wearing his shades.
A Happy Ending
He is doing very well and we are so grateful to Dr Jo for her diligence in investigating the problems he was having. She insisted that we sent Loki off to a specialist and would not give up until we found a solution that got him to a stage where he was thriving. Dr Emma also put loads of time and effort into exploring various treatment options for Loki and Dr Eliza also got stuck in with helping us figure things out, and we are so thankful.
Also, a big shout out to the nurses who helped us keep Loki still during those many, many Schirmer tests - Loki had become an expert at wriggling free and getting the filter paper out of his eyes, and the ladies were so brilliant and patient with him.
If you suspect your pet has an issue with their eyes, don’t hesitate, call us on 020 8459 4729 to book an appointment today.