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Eyelash Disorders in Dogs and Cats

Common Disorder of the Eyelashes in Dogs and Cats


Buffy Baird by Mike Baird on Flickr

Buffy Baird

by Mike Baird on Flickr

About Eyelash Disorders
Abnormal eyelash growth is a relatively common problem in dogs, but these problems are only rarely seen in cats. There are several distinct disorders of eyelashes with tricky names, but the problems they cause, and their treatment, are similar.

Ectopic Cilia
An extra eyelash grows out of the inner lining of the eyelid, usually the upper eyelids of dogs. These then scrape against the surface of the eye and are extremely irritating. Usually found in young animals.

An extra eyelash grows out of opening of glands on the inner rim of the eyelid. These eyelashes are not oriented like normal eyelashes and often scrape against the surface of the eye, and may cause irritation.

Eyelashes that grow from eyelash follicles, but that grow in an abnormal directions so that sometimes they contact the eye. Eye lashes that point the wrong way, sometimes against the eye where they may cause irritation.

Risk Factors
These are usually found in young animals, though they can happen at any age, and to any breed. Eyelash disorders are rare in cats but are seen occasionally.

Some dog breeds are predisposed to eyelash disorders. Breed predispositions listed in the Canine Inherited Disorders Database:

  • disitichiasis: common in American and English Cocker Spaniel, Shih Tzu, toy and miniature Poodle, Golden Retriever, Pekingese, Shetland Sheepdog, and seen in many other breeds
  • ectopic cilia: Bulldog, Lhasa Apso, Pekingese, Shih Tzu
  • trichiasis: American cocker spaniel, Pekingese (also seen in many flat faced breeds due to folding of skin)

Signs and Symptoms of Eyelash Disorders
The signs of eyelash disorders are variable in presence and severity, but any of the following could be seen:

  • squinting or blepharospasm; rapid, excessive blinking
  • excess tear production
  • discharge from eye
  • red, irritated eye (conjunctivitis)
  • irritated cornea (can see blood vessels or pigmentation in clear part of eye)
  • ulcers on cornea

Diagnosis of Eyelash Disorders
The eyelash disorders can be diagnosed by careful examination. Sometimes magnification can help in finding these stray eyelashes, though they are sometimes difficult to find. Your vet may want to do tests to determine if there are any abrasions or ulcers on the cornea that need to be treated as well.

Treating Eyelash Disorders
The offending eyelashes can be pulled out, but the follicle or gland from which they are growing must be removed to keep from simply returning. This can be accomplished by surgery or using electrical impulses or very cold temperatures to destroy the source of the stray eyelash. Treatment is only required for abnormal eyelashes that cause irritation.

Home Care for a Pet with Eyelash Disorders
In addition to removing the eyelash, the conjunctivitis and/or corneal ulcers created by the eyelashes will be treated. This usually requires administering eye ointment and/or drops as prescribed by your vet. Be sure to follow your vet's directions for administering any medications, and keep any follow up appointments to make sure the eye is healing.

Please note: this article has been provided for informational purposes only. If your pet is showing any signs of illness, please consult a veterinarian as quickly as possible.

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