Disorders of the eyelids are common in some dogs. These disorders may be congenital, meaning they are present at birth. However, they can also be a result of infection, exposure to irritants, or injury.
Entropion In Dogs
When a dog’s eyelids are turned in at the edges so that the eyelashes actually rub against the surface of the eye it is called entropion. When it comes to inherited eyelid disorders, this is the most common in many dog breeds. This condition may occur after scar formation, and the dog may initially present with persistent and severe winking. Winking is usually a result of the dog’s attempt to stop pain in the eye or a surrounding area. The conjunctiva and cornea usually experience discomfort when eyelashes or facial hairs turn in. If a dog’s lashes are extremely long it can even cause abnormal coloring, possible formation of slow-healing sores on the cornea, or scarring.
If the cause of entropion is removed or if pain management treatments lessen the pain it may be possible for early episodes of entropion to be reversed. Other treatments include injections of medication into the lid near where the in-turn occurs, manually turning the lid hairs away from the eye with stitches in the lid, or anesthetics to block eyelid nerves. All of these options can help lessen the pain and possibly reverse the condition in its early stages. However, if the condition has persisted , surgery may be required to correct it.
Ectropion In Dogs
Slacked eyelids that turn out and appear, often, with a large notch or a crack in the eyelid are a result of ectropion. A number of dog breeds experience this abnormality, which is quite common. Breeds most commonly affected include the St. Bernard, a variety of Spaniel breeds, Bloodhound, Bull Mastiff, and Great Dane. Ectropion may develop due to facial nerve paralysis or developing scars in one eyelid. Long-term or recurrent episodes of conjunctivitis can result from exposing the conjunctiva to secondary bacterial infections or environmental irritants. Treatment often includes topical antibiotics that can help to control infections temporarily. However, it is common for lid-shortening surgeries to be done in order to resolve the condition effectively. If mild cases of ectropion arise they can often be controlled by repeatedly cleansing the dog’s affected eyelid with a mild decongestant solution periodically. It is important for pets to see a veterinarian and for their owners to closely follow any treatment plans prescribed by their pet’s physician.
An ability to close the eyelid fully, which is necessary to prevent the cornea from drying out or experiencing trauma, is called lagophthalmos. Unusually shallow orbits may be a cause of this condition, and as such it tends to affect brachycephalic (broad- and flat-headed) breeds such as Bulldogs and Pugs more often than others. However, another possible cause for the condition is an abnormal protrusion of the eyeball. This can often be a result of a mass in the eye socket, or, in some cases, facial nerve paralysis. The formation of sores of the cornea that are slow to heal, abnormal coloring, and scarring are common complications of lagophthalmos. If an effective treatment for the root cause can solve the issue, lagophthalmos is usually treated with ointments that lubricate the eye, or, in severe cases, surgical closure or shortening of the corners of the eye, either permanently or temporarily, might be necessary. The damage caused by lagophthalmos can be aggravated by excessive facial hair or nasal skin folds.
Abnormalities of the Eyelashes
Misdirected eyelashes, particularly on the edge of the eyelid, or extra eyelashes are considered abnormalities of the eyelashes. While seemingly harmless, they can cause conditions such as blood vessel development in the cornea, watery eyes, and sores on the cornea that are slow to heal. In many instances these eyelash abnormalities occur with very fine lashes that don’t cause any noticeable adverse reactions. But if eyelashes are sticking through the back of the eyelid or in unusual positions they can cause immense pain for dogs. If the cornea is damaged because of the extra lashes or conjunctiva occurs it is often necessary to cut out or freeze eyelash follicles surgically to remove the abnormal lashes. These lash irregularities are common in some dog breeds, and most studies indicate that they are probably inherited.
Inflammation of the Eyelids (Blepharitis)
If a dog’s eyelids become inflamed it can often be the result of a generalized inflammation that has spread, usually of the skin, or from conjunctiva inflammation, glandular infections local to the eyes, or plant oils, sunlight, and other irritants. In other cases the eyelids can be infected by fungi, bacteria, or mites, which can lead to generalized inflammation and then eyelid inflammation.
Where the conjunctiva and skin join there can develop an number of immune-mediated diseases. For example, pemphigus can come with burning and itching. Usually, cultures, biopsies, skin scrapings, and other tests have to be done to reach an accurate diagnosis. If localized infections of the glands occur they can be either long-term, such as a maeibomian abscess, or short-term, such as a stye.
If a generalized condition is determined to be the cause of eyelid inflammation, it is usually necessary to treat it with whole-body therapy instead of solely treating the eye itself. Hot packing and frequent cleansing is often necessary as supportive therapy in extreme cases. The pet’s veterinarian will usually design and recommend a treatment plan designed around the specific generalized condition the dog has and designed to control the symptoms and treat the condition, if possible. The goal is always to make the pet more comfortable throughout treatment, and to treat the eye condition. It is important that pet owners understand all of their veterinarian’s recommendations and the details of any treatment plan. Where questions arise it is always advisable to ask for detailed instructions, particularly as it pertains to eye drops or other medication administration. Veterinarians are usually very happy to help administer these medications if a pet owner doesn’t feel comfortable doing it alone.