New RVC research shows certain dog breeds are more prone to keratoconjunctivitis sicca – VetSurgeon News – VetSurgeon

New research from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has shown that flat-faced dogs and spaniels, among others, are more prone to keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), also known as “dry eye”.

The study1 was led by the RVC’s VetCompass program and is the largest study to use anonymized veterinary health records to assess dry eye in dogs. The study included 363,898 dogs followed for one year to identify 1,456 dogs with dry eyes.

The study found that the condition affects 1 in 250 dogs overall, but certain breeds are particularly susceptible.

The worst affected breeds were: American Cocker Spaniel (5.90%), West Highland White Terrier (2.21%), Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (1.91), Lhasa Apso (1.86%), English Bulldog ( 1.82%), English bull terrier (1.65.). %,) and English Cocker Spaniel (1.60%).

Further findings were:

  • 22 breeds showed an increased risk of dry eye compared to crossbred dogs, including: American Cocker Spaniel (x 52.33), English Bulldog (x 37.95), Pug (x 22.09), Lhasa Apso (x 21, 58) and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (x 19.79).
  • Two breeds showed a lower risk of dry eye compared to crossbred dogs: Labrador Retriever (x 0.23) and Border Collie (x 0.30).
  • Brachycephalic breeds had 3.63 times the risk of dry eye compared to mesocephalic breeds.
  • Spaniel breeds had 3.03 times the risk of dry eye compared to non-spaniel breeds.
  • Breeds with body weights above the mean for their breed and sex had 1.25 times the risk of dry eye compared to dogs weighing below the mean for their breed and sex.
  • Dogs in groups with lower body weight had a higher risk of dry eye: dogs weighing 10.0 – <20.0 kg had a 5.49-fold risk compared to dogs weighing 30.0 - < 40.0 kg.
  • Dogs ≥ 12 years of age had the highest risk of dry eye compared to dogs <3 (x 29.44).

The study’s authors recommended that veterinarians help reduce the incidence and effects of KCS by testing the adequacy of tear production as part of the annual physical exam for all dogs, but especially for the list of predisposed breeds if they are different approaching advanced age.

Dr. Dan O’Neill, Senior Lecturer, Companion Animal Epidemiology, at RVC and author of the article, said, “We all love those shiny dog ​​eyes, but this study shows that unfortunately not every dog ​​enjoys good eye health. Research shows that flattened faces in some breeds, making these breeds more prone to this painful dry eye disorder. There is urgent work to improve the health of many of these flat-faced breeds, but in the meantime the message for anyone interested in dogs is to stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog.

Rick Sanchez, European specialist in veterinary ophthalmology says, “A new look into an old, boring looking disease like KCS has shown us that we can learn more than we thought. Ultimately, clinicians, nurses, researchers, breeders, and dog owners can all be caregivers of our beloved animals in one form or another. Each of us needs any new information we can consider in order to take our next steps towards improving dog eye health. There is no better eye opener than evidence-based science. I hope this research will help us all raise awareness of KCS in dogs and that these animal eyes look as fresh and healthy as they should. “

Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at the Kennel Club, commented, “These results are important in identifying which dogs are most at risk of developing dry eye. Ultimately, this should help owners who may need assistance with detecting dry eye early symptoms and ways to treat and prevent affected dogs in the future. The data from this fascinating research will also be used to develop strategies with the breed societies of the affected breeds to address health priorities. “


  1. O’Neill et al. (2021) “Keratoconjunctivitis sicca in dogs receiving primary care in the UK: an epidemiological study” Journal of Small Animal Practice. The full paper can be found here:

Photo: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with KCS. By Rick F Sanchez BSciBiol DVM DipECVO CertVetEd FHEA.JPG

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