Eyelid Conditions


Because so much is visible, problems can be grouped according to eye anatomy, starting with the eyelids, then moving to the conjunctiva and third eyelid, then on to the surface of the eye. From there problems in the (visible) lens and (relatively invisible) retina are listed, finishing with a discussion of blindness in general.

The Eyelids

The eyelids efficiently protect the eye but when eyelid anatomy is incorrect they actually damage the eye. Some dogs are born with abnormal eyelid anatomy while others acquire problems through injury or disease.


This is a canine condition in which the eyelids roll inwards. It is inherited in some breeds but may also develop from scarring injuries to the skin around the eyes or after prolonged eyelid infection (blepharitis). Squinting (blepharospasm) also causes the eyelids to roll in but this is temporary rather than permanent. Rolled-in skin irritates the eyes stimulating excess tear production and inflammation. There is increased risk of corneal injury and eye infection.

Diagnosis and treatment

A drop of local anaesthetic on the eyes relaxes squinting but does not alter true entropion. A surgical correction is effected by removing a crescent of skin and drawing the eyelid into a more normal position.


This eyelid defect is the opposite of entropion. The eyelids roll out. They are everted. This causes the pink conjunctiva to be visible and more susceptible to inflammation, injury or contract with debris. While some dogs are born with entropion of the lower lid, the condition may also develop with natural aging and loss of skin elasticity.

Diagnosis and treatment

Mild ectropion is not uncommon, particularly in older individuals. These dogs benefit from daily examination and cleansing of the exposed conjunctiva with cotton wool dipped in tepid salt water or with proprietary eye wash. More severe cases need surgical correction.

Abnormal Eyelashes - Distichiasis And Trichiasis

In some dogs, eyelashes abnormally grow from the margin of the eyelids, a condition called distichiasis. In others, normal eyelashes turn in, rather than away and make contact with the eye. This is called trichiasis. Both conditions cause constant irritation and heighten the risk of conjunctivitis and corneal damage.

Diagnosis and treatment

The eyelashes are visible lying in the tear film against the eyeball. Plucking them with tweezers gives temporary relief but they usually regrow. Surgical removal of the hair follicles is the most effective treatment. Cryotherapy or electrolysis are sometimes used.

Facial Hair

It is not only eyelashes or eyelid hair that can irritate eyes. The hair on the nasal fold of flat-faced canine breeds can rub on the eyes. So too can long facial hair on unclipped Yorkshire Terriers, Old English Sheepdogs, Bearded Collies Lhasa Apsos and all others where hair can overhang the eyes. If you are not planning to show your dog, consider routinely trimming this hair. If you do show your dog, get him or her accustomed to having it held away from the eyes in a non-snagging elastic band.

Eyelid Inflammation (Blepharitis)

Bacterial and feline viral infections cause the eyelids to thicken and redden, producing mucus and pus. Crust builds up on the edges. If not removed it may "glue" the eyelids together. This is most commonly seen in young kittens and pups. It is the most common eye condition associated with cat flu. In older pets blepharitis is almost always associated with an underlying skin disease such as atopy, autoimmune disease, demodex mange or an underactive thyroid gland.

Diagnosis and treatment

A culture and sensitivity reveals the bacterial cause and range of effective antibiotics. Crust is soaked off using a warm, wet face cloth. Antibiotic eye ointment is applied following our instructions. Oral antibiotics may also be used. The underlying disease condition must be controlled before blepharitis is resolved.

Acute Eyelid Swelling

An allergic reaction, to insect bites, to an injection given by us, even to food can cause the eyelids to suddenly swell. Affected pets are very itchy and rub their face and eyes.

Diagnosis and treatment

Like hives, this reaction usually occurs within 30 minutes of contact with the allergen. An antihistamine by mouth and topical corticosteroid eye drops or ointment for a day is usually all that is necessary.

"Growths" And Swellings On The Eyelids

The eyelids are lined with individual oil-producing meibomian glands. An infection to a meibomian gland creates a tender red swelling. This is called a STYE.

If a meibomian gland becomes blocked, its contents back up, producing a non-tender hard mass. This creates a firm bulge on the edge of the eyelid called a CHALAZION.

Tumours can develop in any tissue including the oil-producing cells of the meibomian gland. The most common canine eyelid tumour is a benign ADENOMA. This produces a proliferation of cauliflower-like tissue attached to and extruding from the affected gland.

Other canine tumours, including MELANOMAS and PAPILLOMAS (WARTS) can develop on the eyelid.

Diagnosis and treatment

Styes, chalazions and adenomas all are diagnosed clinically. A stye is treated with a warm compress (warm, wet face cloth) at least three times daily to bring it to a head. Your vet may choose to lance it with a scalpel or pin. Topical and sometimes oral antibiotics are used as are pain killers. A chalazion is surgically removed, usually from the conjunctival surface of the eyelid. Tumours are removed by surgical wedge excision. Histopathology is always valuable.

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