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The Guide to Abnormal Eyelids in Dogs
Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/21745851@N00/3785170229/

Abnormal eyelids, or medically known as entropion, is the uncomfortable condition in which a portion of the eyelid is folded inwards. This can cause the eyelashes or fur of dogs to scratch or otherwise irritate the surface of the eye. Entropion, aside from being unimaginably uncomfortable, can lead to a variety of eye issues including blindness if left untreated.

Entropion is fairly common in a large variety of dog breeds; however dogs will be born with the condition and will only develop it later in life under certain circumstances. With regular visits to the veterinarian, most puppies will be diagnosed by their first birthday and corrected. Abnormal eyelids in adult dogs are most often seen in those who were born on the street and rescued or adopted from breeders who failed to have their puppies checked by a vet.

Entropion Symptoms

Entropion is common in dog breeds with saggy skin such as bulldogs, mastiffs, and shar peis. However, it is also prevalent amongst toy breeds as well due their unique breeding. In toy breeds or those with wide heads and short statue (brachycephalic breeds) symptoms of abnormal eyelids include excess tears and inner eye inflammation. However, in larger breeds the most common symptoms, as well as those that manifest in toy breeds, is pus or mucus discharge from the corners of the eyes.

Other symptoms can include sudden eye tics, general inflammation of the eye and the surrounding area and, in the worse and ongoing cases, the rupture of the cornea. For pet owners that suspect that their dog or puppy may have entropion, get in nice and close to their eyes. Look for the eye lashes, if you can only see a few of them and not the whole fan, or none at all, it is definitely time for a vet visit. This trick may not work for larger breeds, as the outer corners are the part that tend to roll inward.

If left untreated, your dog will not only physically and mentally suffer but are prone to developing more serious disorders. Untreated entropion may cause dark colored scar tissue to form on the eye, which will obscure vision. In worse cases, they will develop ulcers or cuts on the eyeball itself which will likely lead to infection. With ulcers, vision can likely still be salvaged, but when cuts begin to form, saving the vision in the eye is unlikely.

Causes Abnormal Eyelids in Dogs

Entropion in many dogs is a genetic defect. If getting a puppy from a breed that is prone to the defect, owners should inquire if either parent has had the defect and gotten it fixed or not. Essentially, facial shape is the primary genetic reason for this defect. Short-nosed dogs with wide heads have more tension on the ligaments of the inner eye. Paired with the shape, this can often lead to either the top or bottom eyelids to roll inward.

Larger dog breeds tend to have the exact opposite problem. Their ligaments are not tight enough around the outer corners of the eye, so the outer edges tend to roll inward.

Breeds that generally do not suffer from this condition are not immune to it, however. Dogs that have had multiple eye infections can develop entropion as well. Dogs that have also had inflammation to the chewing muscle, through injury or otherwise, as well as dogs that have gone through extreme weight loss can also develop this condition. So while it is usually a genetic condition, any dogs can develop it under the right circumstances.

Diagnosis of Entropion

Diagnosis of entropion is a pretty simple and straightforward process. A veterinarian will simply examine it visually. If it is caused by the genetics of a breed, they should then recommend having it surgically fixed. However, if it is caused by other factors than genetics, such as eye irritants, then the veterinarian will recommend removing the irritants first before proceeding to surgery.

Breeders of dogs who are genetically prone to this disease should have all the puppies of a litter checked out at about four to five weeks old for this condition.

Treatment of Abnormal eyelids in Dogs

Veterinarians will address the problems caused by entropion before surgery. Ulcers on the eyeball will be treated with antibiotic ointments. Sometimes, this condition can be treated without surgery by using artificial tears to lubricate the eye and then just rolling the eyelid back into place, but when it is caused by genetics, surgery is the only option. The vet will make small incisions on the side of the eye and suture the eyelid into the correct position.

In severe cases, facial reconstruction surgery will be needed. For puppies that require such a complicated procedure, most vets will recommend owners or breeders to a specialist. However, even most specialists will recommend waiting until the puppy has reached adulthood when everything has stopped developing. Until that point, owners or breeders will need to use the artificial tears to lubricate the eye and use the antibiotic ointment if ulcers begin to form.

References:  http://www.cvm.ncsu.edu/vhc/tc/clinical_services/ophthal/entropion.html

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