Eyelid gland masses (Cysts and Styes) in Dogs

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4 min read

Key takeaways

The formation of masses from the glands in a dog’s eyelids is a common condition in middle-aged and old dogs. The most common type is a meibomian gland cyst (chalazion) along the margin of the eyelid.

  • Often benign and don’t always require treatment
  • Eyelid glands may also become infected, forming a hordeolum or “stye”
  • When a red, pale, or pink bump appears on the margin of the eyelid, it’s best to have it checked out by a vet
  • A complete ophthalmic examination, microscopic evaluation of cells from the swelling, and bacterial culture may be performed
  • Atypical presentations may require biopsy to differentiate them from potentially more dangerous tumors or cancer
  • Treatment is not always necessary and options include warm compresses, delicately massaging the gland, and antibiotic eye drops
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A closer look: Eyelid gland masses (Cysts and Styes) in Dogs

Eyelid gland masses are common in dogs, especially as they get older. A blocked meibomian gland may not cause any pain or inflammation, but if it becomes infected and forms a stye or hordeolum, this is more likely to be painful.

It’s best to have any new eyelid mass checked out by a veterinarian as quickly as possible to rule out any form of malignancy. The most common type of eyelid gland tumor is a benign adenoma, and malignancies are rare. If the mass appears to bother the dog or seems to grow or change rapidly, the need for a visit to a vet is more urgent.

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Risk factors

Most chalazia do not cause pain or lead to complications.

If a chalazion becomes infected and forms a stye, additional symptoms include:

  • Increasing swelling of the bump
  • Darker pink or red color
  • Swelling of the surrounding eyelid
  • More severe blinking, tearing, and squinting

Possible causes

The most common types of non-cancerous eyelid gland masses are:

  • Chalazion (or meibomian gland cyst): non painful swelling along the eyelid margin caused by the accumulation of secretions when the duct becomes blocked
  • Stye (or hordeolum): infected chalazion, usually caused by bacteria entering the backed up gland

Main symptoms

Symptoms can include:

  • A nodule or swelling; a “lump or bump” on the margin eyelid
  • The nodule may be pink, red, or pale
  • Ocular discharge/excessive tearing (epiphora)
  • Excessive rubbing of the eye

Testing and diagnosis

The diagnostic phase consists in determining the specific type of mass and ruling out a tumor. Diagnostic tests for this can include;

  • A complete ophthalmic examination
  • A bacterial and fungal culture to determine the presence of infective bacteria or parasites
  • Cytology through fine needle aspiration of the tumor
  • Tissue biopsy
  • Complete physical examination and blood count

Steps to Recovery

Treatment is not always necessary. Some chalazia remain present for a very long time without leading to irritation or infection and some styes heal on their own.

Treatment strategies can include:

  • Warm compresses
  • Delicately massaging an impacted gland to encourage it to drain
  • Antibiotic eye drops

Some eyelid masses do not cause eye irritation or other complications so the dog can live with them. A chalazion may spontaneously resolve. Eyelid gland masses carry a good prognosis.


It is unknown why eyelid gland masses develop and there are no known preventive measures.

The condition is not contagious.

Is Eyelid gland masses (Cysts and Styes) in Dogs common?

Yes. Eyelid gland masses are common in dogs and they become more and more frequent with aging.

Typical Treatment

  • Not always necessary
  • Warm compresses
  • Delicately massaging the gland
  • Antibiotic eye drops


"Brian L. White DVM Ellen B. Belknap DVM, MS, DACVO, DACVIM (Large Animal) " - Writing for Today's Veterinary Practice
Suzanne Waltman, DVM, DACVIM - Writing for Veterinary Partner
Dr. Noelle McNabb - Writing for PetPlace
"Braidee C. Foote DVM, DACVO" - Writing for Today's Veterinary Practice

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