We don’t give very much thought to our own eyelids – much less our dog’s – but in some cases, we should. Two conformational abnormalities may be making trouble for your pet, causing the eyelids to roll outwards or inwards, directly affecting the eye itself. Entropion and ectropion are problems that need to be addressed as soon as possible for the health of your pet’s eyes.
Entropion is the inward rolling of the eyelids, and while it can occur in both the upper and lower lids, it is more common in the lower lid. When the eyelid rolls in, the lid hairs and eyelashes to rub against the cornea, or eye’s surface. Chronic irritation can lead to conjunctivitis, thick yellow discharge, scratches or ulceration of the cornea, and increased tear production.
Entropion can be congenital (meaning that it is present at birth) or can occasionally be acquired as a result of injury or inflammation. It is usually easily recognized during routine physical exams. The age of the dog and severity of the disease will dictate treatment. If entropion is found in a young puppy, your vet can place temporary sutures to tack the lids in a normal position to protect the eyes while the puppy grows. Sometimes, this temporary treatment leads to a permanent cure. In more severe cases, or cases recognized in adult dogs, surgical correction is usually suggested.
Breeds that are more prone to entropion include English Bulldogs, Shar Peis, Bloodhounds, Chow Chows, Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Poodles and English Mastiffs.
Ectropion is the eversion, or outward rolling, of the eyelids. It is either related to abnormal lid length or to a laxity of the eyelid itself. Ectropion is occasionally acquired through overzealous surgical correction of entropion, but most often is a congenital problem. Unfortunately, ectropion is considered a desired trait in some breeds.
Ectropion is easily recognized by that droopy-eyed look we have come to associate with dogs like the Basset Hound. Though it definitely adds to the cuteness factor of those affected by it, ectropion is not healthy for the affected pet’s eyes. Droopy lids lead to increased tear production, but those tears cannot be distributed over the eye properly, so painful keratitis (dry eye) can occur. Chronic conjunctivitis is also a problem for dogs affected with ectropion.
If ectropion is mild and uncomplicated by severe conjunctivitis or keratitis, no treatment is needed. Severe cases should be surgically corrected, however, to prevent ongoing ocular disease.
Breeds that are more prone to ectropion include Basset Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, Boxers, Bloodhounds, Clumber Spaniels, Mastiffs and St. Bernards.