Jade, a 5-year-old Pitbull mix, suddenly began having eye problems in early 2021. She was diagnosed with Dry Eye, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca(KCS) with a Schirmer Tear Test result of 2.0 mm/min on one eye and 1.0 mm/min on the other. In dogs with tear production less than 5 mm/min, reestablishing near normal tear production is usually quite difficult. She was started on Cyclosporine and Tacrolimus drops 3x day along with artificial tears with the hope that her eyes would clear up in 3 weeks. While the disease can be managed with this course of treatment, the pet unfortunately needs to remain on the meds for life. This means that pet owners must bear a high cost monthly as well as clean discharge from the pet’s eyes and place drops daily for the rest of the pet’s life. A final option for pets who do not respond to medical management was also discussed with Jade’s owners: a bilateral parotid duct transposition. This is when the duct of a salivary gland is surgically relocated from the mouth to the pocket below the eye, which results in the eye being kept moist with saliva instead of tears.
Jade’s owners were not satisfied with this news. Because of the dry climate where she lives, Jade was extra miserable, so her owners were anxious to take care of the problem. Besides the fact that the drops didn’t seem to be helping much, they hated to see their baby so uncomfortable. She had stopped playing, was visibly uncomfortable, and was forced to wear a cone because she’d scratched the skin around her eyes raw. On top of this, her owners had to physically restrain her to place drops in her eyes multiple times a day – sometimes hourly – and remove the discharge from her already sore eyes. They decided to look for a better option for their girl. After some online research they found that Safari Veterinary Care Center is able to treat this condition using stem cell therapy and gave us a call.
Jade’s Dad drove her to Safari in Texas from Colorado for stem cell therapy. Although she’d been suspected of having KCS, Dr Garner determined her symptoms and inflammation were more typical for immune mediated marginal granulomatous blepharitis. Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelid that can have many causes. In Jade’s case, her immune system was attacking her eyelids, and like an allergic reaction, this was causing her to squint, have itchy eyes, and discharge. Like KCS, blepharitis is quite uncomfortable for the pet and doesn’t go away on its own. Either the pet must stay on immune suppressing drugs for life or somehow have their immune system reset back to normal to stop the attack. As it turns out, stem cells are the key to returning the immune system to its normal state.
As with KCS, immune mediated blepharitis is commonly treated with topical steroid medications in an effort to turn off the immune system. In Jade’s case, stem cell therapy was used to reset the immune system back to normal, addressing the root cause of the problem. Two injections are made into each eye – one into the dorsal lacrimal gland and one into the gland of the third eyelid. Her eyes had been so uncomfortable before the stem cell injections that the ligaments around her eyes were pulling them back into the socket as much as possible for protection and the whites of her eyes were no longer visible. A week after the first round of stem cells her owners could see the whites of her eyes again and reported that she was much more comfortable with each passing day.
Three weeks later another round of stem cells was administered. At this point her immunosuppressants had been discontinued. Her owners noted that her eyes look better and need less lubricant every day. She was less itchy.
Just 27 days after the first round of stem cells (and 1 week after the second round) Jade’s eyes were open wide – no more squinting! and glistening. She was happy, doing well, and back to her old self.
According to her owners, “I see moisture on her bottom lid many times during the afternoon. She is happy and so comfortable. Jade and our family are so thankful for Dr. Garner and the Safari vet team in Texas. Jade has tears and we couldn’t be happier!”