Both dogs and cats can inherit or develop eyelid abnormalities that should be surgically corrected. Our Westminster vets discuss common types of eyelid issues seen in pets, symptoms, surgical treatments and more.
Eyelid Issues in Cats & Dogs
While you may be concerned to discover your cat or dog has an eyelid abnormality, disorder or disease, these problems are relatively common, and many can benefit from surgical treatment.
Surgery is often used to correct genetic or acquired conformational abnormalities such as:
If your cat or dog's eyelid is swollen, the culprit may be blepharitis, which causes inflammation (swelling) of the eyelid or edges of the eyelid. This can be caused by congenital abnormalities, bacterial, fungus or parasite infection, autoimmune diseases, certain types of cancer and allergies (to grass, pollen, dust, mold, food, etc.)
While it causes discomfort, it does not pose an immediate threat to your pet's vision or overall health, so is not considered an emergency. However, blepharitis that is not treated effectively can become very serious and threaten your pet's sight and even cause them to lose their eye.
This inversion or 'rolling in' of the eyelids is a condition in which the bottom eyelid folds or droops outward (everted), away from the eye. It causes the eyelids to appear droopy and exposes the delicate mucus membrane or conjunctiva that is not naturally meant to be exposed. This can cause nerve damage, infection, injury or severe chronic inflammation of the eye.
Some dog breeds including Bloodhounds, Bulldogs, Bassett Hounds, Bullmastiffs, Retrievers and Spaniels have naturally occurring mild ectropion. The condition occurs most often in dogs but is rarely seen in cats.
In contrast to ectropion, entropion is the condition that causes the eyelids to roll inward. The eyelashes and other hair surrounding the eyes rub on the cornea (eyeball's surface) leading to irritation.
The condition can be primary (developmental) or secondary (acquired). It can affect both upper and lower lids and may be seen in one or both eyes. While any cat can have entropion, short-nosed breeds such as the Himalayan and Persian cats are at increased risk of the condition.
Many dog breeds, including the Akita, American Staffordshire Terrier, Basset Hound, Bernese Mountain Dog, Bloodhound, Bulldog, Spaniels, Retrievers, Great Danes and others have this issue.
Also referred to as eyelid coloboma, this congenital defect causes abnormal eyelid development in cats, but rarely in dogs. Cats with eyelid agenesis will be missing part or all of their upper eyelid, and the lid functions abnormally.
This condition causes excessive eyelid length and a protruding eye leading to progressive disease of the cornea.
Commonly seen in short-nosed breeds such as the Pug, French Bulldog, Shih Tzu, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas and others, the condition can be exacerbated by a large fold of skin across the top of the nose.
A combination of entropion, ectropion and macroblepharon may result in the presence of diamond-shaped eyelids.
Symptoms of Eyelid Problems in Pets
Signs of eyelid problems may depend on several factors, including the severity of the disease. Here are common symptoms of eyelid problems in cats and dogs:
- Impaired vision
- Redness or bloodshot eyes
- Swollen eyelids
- Eyelid spasms
- Gren or yellow discharge
- Facial staining caused by poor tear drainage
- Rubbing the eye due to itchiness or pain
- Scar tissue formation
- Corneal ulceration and cloudy cornea
Dog & Cat Eyelid Surgery
After performing a full eye exam, diagnostics and testing, your vet will consider the underlying cause of your pet's eye abnormality and potentially recommend ocular surgery in combination with other treatment methods such as antibiotics. We offer a full spectrum of oculoplastic procedures to treat orbital and eyelid disorders. The details for surgical treatment of each eyelid abnormality mentioned above are as follows:
Ectropion requires surgical correction less often than entropion. While the condition can sometimes be managed with eye lubrication, surgery may be beneficial if ectropion is causing issues.
Surgical procedures can vary significantly depending on your pet's specific circumstances, but lid shortening is a commonly used procedure. The drooping lower eyelid skin is removed. For large breed dogs with excessive facial skin (bloodhounds, for example), full facial reconstruction to remove excess skin is frequently needed.
Primary & Secondary Entropion
Primary entropion typically develops in dogs by 18 to 24 months of age. Dogs that develop primary entropion after 12 months of age will often need surgery. Numerous surgical techniques are used to correct this type of entropion and each are tailored specifically to the cause, location and severity of the lid malformation.
Injury, chronic inflammation and painful eye diseases can trigger secondary or acquired entropion. While surgical correction may be necessary, entropion will recur if the underlying causes is untreated or uncontrolled.
Success rates following entropion surgery vary somewhat based on your pet's species, age, and specific circumstances of their case.
Entropion in cats is most often caused by severe or chronic herpetic eye infection. Unfortunately, this typically leads to permanent damage and surgery is usually required to resolve this type of secondary eye condition. Controlling the underlying cause is critical as herpes in cats is commonly a chronic or recurring problem.
While medical treatment or cryotherapy may be recommended in some circumstances, for larger defects, reconstructive eyelid surgery may be required to preserve your cat or dog's ocular health. Most surgical methods are designed to relocate a normal piece of tissue from nearby structures (lower eyelid, lip or elsewhere) and graft a "new" eyelid onto the defect.
Medial blepharoplastic surgery, which reduces the eyelid length and prevents continued abrasion of the eye's surface, is sometimes recommended to treat macroblepharon. Entropion surgery may be performed at the same time if the eyelid turns inwards.
Another surgical treatment option is laser surgery to remove the pigment without damaging the rest of the cornea. This can prove successful at improving vision in dogs with severe macroblepharon.
Surgery brings the eyelids together closer to the nose to shorten the eyelid opening. This fits the eyelids more closely around the eye and there will be a less of a bulge in this area. Your pet's eyes may appear smaller and further apart. However, surgery does not significantly affect overall appearance in most cases.
If you are looking for more information about any of these procedures, you may choose to use your favorite search engine to look up images using the term: "Cat's and dog's eyes surgery, before and after shots" or ask your vet for more details.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.