View Full Version : It's been a roller coaster ride...microphthalmia & dry eye

Lady Hoop
21st August 2012, 06:47 AM
Hello all! First, I want to say this has been my greatest resource for information as a new Cavalier puppy owner. I have been on this forum every night since I got her (almost 5 weeks). I would have introduced myself in the "introduce yourself" section, but I have far too much to get off my chest and it's not appropriate for that forum.

My husband and I are the proud, doting, happy, blessed owners of a beautiful ruby Cavalier named Lady. She is almost 5 months old.

As much as it is going to pain everyone to read (and now pains me after what I learned, which I feel like I could write a book at this point!), we bought her from our local Petland. We both had a lot of experience with cats, and own two sweet humane shelter kitties for years now, but very little experience with puppies/dogs. We knew we wanted a Cavalier after admiring a few we knew from afar and read about the breed in a few books, but never online. Looking back, I realize that I would have learned a lot about reputable breeders if I hadn't only read the surface-information found in books that tells you basic temperament and health information and dug a little deeper. I moved to my husband's hometown a few years ago and was not used to Pet Stores where I am from. I don't recall ever seeing one. That being said, the stigma that surrounds them has only resonated with me after my own personal experience. I am extremely new to the dog world!

I have been in the store several times for cat litter, cat toys, etc. and always took a glance at the lonely caged pups. Young and naive, I never thought about the stories behind them. It was the same story that's been heard a million times before, I totally fell in love with her the minute I saw her. My husband and I took her out to play and the emotions completely took over. He fell in love, I was in love, it was pitiful. Of all the times we have seen puppies, it never affected us like she did. As soon as I went to hand her back, my emotions completely took over and I started sobbing...and I'm the opposite of a cry baby! We left, but quickly turned around and went back.

To make a long story short, we were almost out of the door when I noticed (I swear it was at the exact same time) her right eye was slightly shut and seemed to be bothering her and she started coughing. I mentioned it to the girl and asked to see the owner. She said he was not there on weekends, but she would send so and so from the back who will assure her clean bill of health. They sent out a very nonchalant worker who explained to me that she *may* have had kennel cough, but she has finished an antibiotic and is fine now and that it will take weeks for the cough to subside. Her eye, according to him (which now I think, "Why would I believe them?"), was conjunctivitis from having the RI and gave me a neosporin-like ointment. Both of my shelter kitties came home with respiratory infections and conjunctivitis so, stupidly, I thought the recovery would be just as quick and painless.

That first day I kept a watch on her closely and noticed her eye had to be more than just conjunctivitis irritating her. She has tear stains down one side and absolutely not a drop on the other. I knew it had to be very dry. In addition, I knew she couldn't have finished an entire antibiotic and still sound the way she did. Fast breathing, congested, coughing, sneezing, etc. At this point, I was extremely paranoid and panicking. A little too late, I turned to google and started massively researching. The more I read, the more it felt like someone was stabbing me in the heart! I'm sure I don't have to explain all of the revelations I came to, but it wasn't pretty. We immediately took her to the vet the next day. Strangely, the vet I already used, trusted and had loved (for my kitties) was the go-to vet for this particular Petland. My vet told me that, not to jump to conclusions, but she clearly hadn't been treated well enough for her respiratory infection. He gave her a booster shot in the rear, an antibiotic and cough syrup. He also said to continue using the neosporin ointment, as they may be right about the Conjunctivitis. I pointed out to him that dry eye is commonly seen in the breed and he stated he's only seen it in elderly Cavs (yeah...right). I also asked him to check her heart and knees. It annoyed me that I had to ask him to check all 3 of those things. According to him, her heart and knees are fine.

Luckily, the medicine for her RI cleared her up just fine. At her one week check up I brought up her eye again and told him I have seen no improvement and that I am sure it's dry eye. He disagreed again, and gave me a drop to try this time. I went home and read up on the drop and saw that it was basically the same thing I was already using, just in a drop form. Maybe stronger. I was getting extremely angry at this point! This drop did nothing but dry her eye out more. She constantly had gunk, could barely open her eye and looked pitiful - especially in the morning. Thankfully, despite all of this, she was as happy as a pup can be and just the most loving, sweet, licky, huggy girl on earth! I may be biased, but I don't believe there's a sweeter pup around.

I called back again (trust me, this vet HATES me at this point and I could care less) and requested another follow up for her eye. This time I saw a different doctor at the office who was fairly young. I explained to him that I was sure it was dry eye and wanted to go ahead and take the eye test to confirm. He said he did not know what eye test I was referring to (What?????!!!), so I explained to him it was the Schirmer tear test and he perked up. Reluctant, he explained to me that he was sure Lady would be fine if I just continued the drops I was using or the Neosporin ointment ( can you believe these people???? ). I demanded the eye test at this point. It took three times of asking for it. Finally, he gave her the test and revealed 20mm on left eye and 4mm on right eye. His synopsis: "I guess you were right!" He gave us Optimmune to use twice daily.

After 2+ weeks of using Optimmune we saw no change again. Absolutely no change. I would lay awake at night reading as much as I could to try and find answers. I would rock her and kiss her and tell her I was so sorry I haven't been able to help her! At that point, I was feeling helpless. My husband and I were distraught, knowing nothing we were doing was helping her. I had not received any artificial tears from the vet and read a lot of suggestions online, but was terrified to put anything in her eye that I was self-medicating her with without a vet's nod.

I contemplated seeing another vet, but I knew that an Ophthalmologist was our answer and needed the referral from my vet. At the rate her eye was looking, I didn't have time to fool around with the same song and dance at another vet (I'll be honest, after all that I read and realizing there was only one board certified vet in this city, I didn't believe I would get any better answer elsewhere). The more I thought about it, the more I realized that she has gone nearly 5 months with a severely dry eye. It made me sick to my stomach.

I scheduled a 4th appointment with the vet. I saw another doctor this time (I swear I think they were tossing me around b/c they were sick of me, my attitude, my questioning, etc) but I am so thankful I did see her. I told her the story and she seemed very ashamed that I was on my 4th visit talking about her eye. She immediately took her back to do a Schirmer and stain test (why this wasn't done before is beyond me?). She came back and revealed that she already had developed a corneal ulcer and that her Schirmer test showed no change from the last time. She talked of upping her Optimmune dosage to three times a day, gave me artificial tears, etc. etc. and I just stared at her. She gave me no answers, but said it was something else to try. I told her I was not going to accept more medication and wasn't leaving without a plan of action. She knew what I meant and asked if I wanted to be referred to an Ophthalmologist about an hour and a half away and I said, "YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

We took the first appointment available. This was only a few days ago that we came back from the Oph with the results. As it turns out, she has microphthalmia and lacrimal gland hyperplasia. The Oph we saw was fabulous. She knew within minutes what was wrong with her and loved and kissed on her and told me things to look out for with Cavs. She gave me loads of information and answered any questions I had. She gave me a full two page diagnosis and prognosis report, including a note specifying that the breeder should be notified that her parents should not be bred (as if they care). As hard as it is to believe, for her condition, Optimmune was simply too weak and mild. We're only 3 full days on this new regimine and her eye looks so much better. In addition, we have loaded up on Genteal and Refresh Optive to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if it started to come out of her nose. HA!

Praise anyone who read all the way this far, I wanted to share my story because, after all of my reading, I honestly didn't find out too much about the condition that Lady has. I have read that it is fairly common in Cavs, but cannot find information that is in depth as it relates to Cavs. What I have read about microphthalmia frightens me because it states her retina will detach and that most pups with the condition are blind in the eye or both eyes have the condition. Her vision in her eye is fine (Praise the lord!!!) as of right now and retina looks fine. She mostly suffers with the severe dryness, which is a result of the underdeveloped eye.

In addition, I wanted to share what an eye opener this has been for me. I am still on this roller coaster ride that is a new puppy owner (we were married without children! We 110% live for this baby each day now!) but mostly importantly have learned so many lessons about responsible dog ownership and finding the right breeder. I would never, ever, ever regret Lady. I regret that I was naive and helped keep a place such as that stay open by falling for it. But I cannot be too angry...I know in my heart that there was not another puppy for us. She was made for us and meant to be ours. I often think about what would become of her if someone else got to her. There are so many careless people in this world who may not have been willing to spend the time or money to find answers and give her relief from an eye that nearly had zero tear production. As a side note, we are currently in a back and forth with the store. I can't imagine how it will actually turn out. It was amazing how aloof the owner reacted. He called back and claimed the breeder was notified ...less than 30 minutes after I dropped off the Ophthalmologist's report to him. :mad: I realize that I can't expect an ethical response/reaction/action to take place.

I have a couple of other routine (I HOPE!) puppy issues that I can post elsewhere. I look forward to posting on here and not just lurking! :wggle:

Phew! SO....does anyone have a sweet baby with this condition that I can relate with and talk to? I would be greatly appreciative of any advice!

Lady Hoop
27th August 2012, 12:39 AM
Quick update: Her eye looks WONDERFUL with the new medicine. She wakes up with her eye open and is no longer rubbing, pawing, etc. I see tears welling up on her bottom lid as they should during the day and she now has slight tear stain on that side! Never thought I would be happy to see tear stain!

We have been very fortunate to, thus far, not see any other signs of more serious issues. I watch her like a hawk for symptoms that I find out of the norm, especially with her approaching 6 months soon. I'm on the search for a new vet close by that may have more experience with Cavaliers than most. I would feel much more comfortable if I knew she was under the care of one that is extremely knowledgeable about the breed.

27th August 2012, 01:50 AM
So glad she is doing ok now! Don't beat yourself up too much-- as Oprah says, "When you know better, you do better". Now make it your mission to help educate others as to where those pet store pups come from so others don't make the same mistake. Lady is lucky that she ended up with such a caring owner who finally got her some relief- poor thing.

27th August 2012, 02:24 AM
Glad she's doing better, and glad she found you... If you need a special vet, a good place to search is at the nearest veterinary school. Good luck!

27th August 2012, 09:32 AM
I am so sorry that you and Lady have been through all this. I have a girl with Curly Coat/Dry Eye Syndrome and have been through a similar learning curve to yours. I am so glad that Lady is doing so well now, even though the condition could progress in the future.

I am insistent with my vet that Holly has her Schirmer tests twice a year, even though she hasn't ulcerated for a very long time now - a couple of years perhaps. Holly is alergic to Metacam, had her eyeball scraped and a serum made from her blood plasma to fight infection, before seeing a fabulous opthalmologist who prescribed ointments generally used for dermatitis in humans, which keep up tear production. Holly was nill production in both eyes before treatment, now she is 21 and 22 quite regularly, with 15 being normal, so I know the medication is right for Holly.

Please spread the word that there is a simple swab test available to detect the presence of CC/DE and Episodic Falling Syndrome too. Cheek swabs are taken and sent off to the laboratory, who are then able to detect whether the animal is a carrier of either or both the conditions. In the UK it is available innexpensively from The Animal Health Trust, and there is now a lab. your side of the pond offering the test also. Rod Russell will probably pick up on this thread quite soon and I am sure he will be able to give more details.

Meanwhile, try to enjoy Lady and share fun times with her. Remember she is a puppy first and foremost and being a sick one comes in a poor second. They aren't pups for long, so try to enjoy her and to stop worrying about what the future will hold. Whatever is going to happen to that eye will happen, whether or not you worry about it or not, so just enjoy.

Joanie Davison
17th November 2012, 02:15 AM
I did read your story and am thankful that you and your husband came into Lady's life. I have a 10 1/2 year old Tri who has eye issues, not as severe as Lady's, but he does get cyclosporine ophthalmic solution twice a day. Our ophthalmologist in Houston, Dr. Glaze, also suggested that we put him on an eye support supplement, Ocu-Glo, which he has taken since his diagnosis in July 2011. Thank you for sharing your story.


Lady Hoop
18th November 2012, 04:39 PM
Thanks all :)

I do want to share an interesting finding. Lady's eye regressed and started producing gunk and causing her irritation, head rubbing and pain again. I started reading a forum regarding dry eye in humans and came across a post that suggested "breaks" from Tacrolimus (I'm sure the same goes for Optimmune, Tacrolimus is just stronger) to improve its effectiveness. I didn't find much on this theory for dogs, but I tested it out anyway. Instead of twice a day, I skipped a couple of days, ditched the artificial tears altogether and then started back at one drop Tacro every other day. After a week this stabilized her eye again and it seemed her tears came back. After a few weeks, her eye still looks great and back to normal.