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Key takeaways

A tumor is an abnormal and uncontrolled cell growth that can appear anywhere in the body. The eyelid is a very common site for tumors in dogs, especially as they age.

  • Most canine eyelid tumors are benign
  • Other signs might include excessive tearing, increased rubbing of the area, and reddening or ulceration on the eyelid margin
  • The cause of eyelid tumors in dogs is generally unknown
  • The diagnostic process focuses on identifying the type of tumor, including complete physical and ophthalmic examinations and specific tests
  • Surgical excision of the tumor is the most common treatment
  • Some types of eyelid tumors respond well to cryotherapy or laser incision
  • Prognosis is generally positive with surgery and only a small percentage recur
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A closer look: Eyelid Tumors in Dogs

The most common form of canine eyelid tumor is a benign adenoma of meibomian gland, which appears as a nodular mass along the eyelid margin. These are not life-threatening and surgical removal isn’t necessary unless the tumor is irritating the eye or causing discomfort to the patient. Skin tumors like melanoma or histiocytoma can also appear on the eyelid. Papillomas (warts) are another common, benign eyelid tumor. It is important to have any eyelid growth examined early to confirm its benign or malignant nature.

Not all masses that appear on the eyelid are tumors. Meibomian gland cysts and infections (styes) can also mimic the signs of an eyelid tumor.

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Risk factors

Severity varies mostly depending on the size and type of tumor and the duration of the problem. Rate of growth is also an important factor as malignant tumors tend to grow faster than benign ones.

Possible causes

Tumors usually originate spontaneously from the glands in the eyelids. The cause is often unknown. Some types of tumors are associated with excessive exposure to sunlight.

Main symptoms

Testing and diagnosis

Eyelid tumors are easy to identify without specific equipment. The objective of diagnostic testing is to determine the type of tumor and its nature.

The diagnostic process starts with a complete physical and ophthalmic evaluation including the medical history of the patient.

More specific tests include:

  • Fluorescein staining of the cornea
  • Tissue biopsy of the tumor
  • Bacterial and fungal culture from the mass
  • Cytology of skin scrapings around the eyelid

X-ray imaging of the chest may also be necessary to evaluate the possible spreading of the tumor.

Steps to Recovery

Surgical removal of the tumor is usually curative for benign masses. More aggressive treatment including chemotherapy and radiation may be recommended for cancerous masses.

Reconstructive surgery might follow the excision. Smaller tumors sometimes respond well to cryotherapy which consists of freezing the affected tissue with liquid nitrogen so it falls off.

If the tumor is too large or spreads to the orbit, surgical removal of the eye might be necessary.

Home care after surgery is important for preventing complications and delayed healing. Wearing an Elizabethan collar is usually necessary to protect the area.

Some smaller benign tumors disappear or fall off on their own. With surgical removal, the prognosis is usually positive and the risk of recurrence is relatively low, with only 10% of eyelid tumors recurring in affected dogs.

If a tumor recurs, it generally happens within six months. During this period it is more important to regularly check the area and schedule follow-up visits with a veterinarian.


As the cause of eyelid tumors is generally unknown, prevention is difficult. The most effective way to avoid complications is early intervention.

Are Eyelid Tumors in Dogs common?

Benign eyelid tumors are very common in middle-aged and older dogs.

Typical Treatment

  • Benign neglect
  • Surgery
  • Cryosurgery
  • Laser surgery


Dr. Noelle McNabb - Writing for PetPlace
Braidee C. Foote DVM, DACVO - Writing for Today's Veterinary Practice
Dr. Mike Paul, DVM - Writing for Pet Health Network
Suzanne Waltman, DVM, DACVIM - Writing for Veterinary Partner

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