Eyelash and Eyelid Disorders in Dogs

Key Takeaways

Eyelash and eyelid disorders in dogs are a group of conditions affecting the area around the eyes. 

• These disorders may be congenital (present from birth) or be the result of injuries or infections

• In eyelash disorders, hair growing in abnormal directions comes in contact with the eyeball and irritates the cornea and/or conjunctiva

• Eyelid disorders cause eye irritation as a result of a change in the shape of the eyelid

• Excessive tearing and red, irritated eyes are the most common symptoms of eyelid and eyelash disorders

• More severe cases damage the eye and can threaten eyesight

• Some disorders are easily observed, but others require bright light and magnification to identify

• Sometimes treatment isn’t necessary

• Surgical removal of part of the eyelid is required in severe cases

• Prognosis is generally good with proper aftercare following surgery

A Closer Look: What are Eyelash and Eyelid Disorders in Dogs?

Most eyelash and eyelids disorders may not be immediately apparent. Initially, the symptoms might be detected only with a thorough ophthalmic examination. More severe conditions such as conjunctivitis and/or keratitis (corneal inflammation due to the cornea drying out) may develop in severe cases.

The most common types of eyelid disorder are:

Entropion: A condition in which the edges of the eyelid turn inward and the eyelash and fur scratch against the cornea. 

Ectropion: A condition that causes the eyelid to turn outward. 

Lagophthalmos: A condition that prevents the eyelid from fully closing, causing drying of the cornea and scarce protection from traumas.

Ocular masses: cysts, styes, and tumors (cancer) 

The most common types of eyelash disorders are:

Distichiasis: A condition that causes extra eyelashes to grow in parts of the eyelid where they shouldn’t appear.

Trichiasis: A condition in which hair grows toward the eyeball. 

Ectopic cilia: A short and stiff eyelash that appears from the underside (conjunctiva) of an eyelid. It rubs against the cornea causing discomfort whenever the dog blinks or sleeps.

Risk Factors

Eyelash and eyelid disorders are not life-threatening. Some of them can be profoundly painful and cause great discomfort or even damage the cornea enough to lead to vision loss. Eyelid and eyelash disorders are common conditions and some breeds might be more predisposed to some of them rather than others. In some cases, these disorders require no treatment. In other cases, surgical removal leads to full recovery in about 2 to 3 weeks.   

Some breeds are predisposed to eyelid disorders, including bloodhounds, great danes, and St. Bernards. Eyelash disorders are more common in long haired breeds such as Shih Tzu.

Possible Causes

Eyelash and eyelid disorders are primarily genetic in origin, particularly in certain breeds. They may occur secondary to injuries or facial nerve paralysis.

Main Symptoms

Eyelid/lash disorders are often self evident and may be accompanied by

Excessive tearing (epiphora)

• Tear staining

• Involuntary winking

Squinting (blepharospasm)

• Pawing at the face

• Red and irritated eyes 

Cloudy surface of the eye

• White spots or opacities in the surface of the eye

Testing and Diagnosis

A complete optical and physical examination are the routine diagnostic process. Blood and urine tests might help detect a possible underlying cause. Fluorescein staining of the cornea assesses if ulcerative keratitis is present. A  Schirmer tear test evaluates tear production.

Steps to Recovery

Treatment is not always necessary, especially for mild conditions that do not irritate the eye.  Surgery is necessary to correct severe disorders. The vet might also prescribe medications, such as antibiotics (in case of infection) or anesthetics to ease the discomfort. 

The prognosis for these types of disorders is generally good. Surgical treatment, if necessary, is usually successful. Post-surgical management is essential. Keeping the eyes clean and lubricated often helps in preventing possible recurrence.


Eyelash and eyelid disorders are not contagious conditions. They have a very strong genetic and breed-related component so they are not always possible to prevent. Regular ophthalmic examinations, checking the dog’s eyes regularly, and keeping the ocular region clean and moist are the best ways of preventing these types of disorders.  Avoiding breeding/sexual alteration of dogs with severe anatomical defects will prevent passing the gene to future generations.

Are Eyelash and Eyelid Disorders Common in Dogs?

Specific conditions are more common to particular breeds. Entropion is the most common eyelid disorder. Ectropion is common in great Danes, bloodhounds, and many spaniels. Lagophthalmos occurs typically found in brachycephalic (push-face) breeds.

For eyelash disorders, trichiasis is most common in long-haired breeds, such as Shih Tzus.

Typical Treatment

• Benign neglect

• Surgery

• Antibiotics

• Pain medications

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