Entropion is an eyelid condition that can affect dogs, cats, and humans. This is a potentially painful condition that can cause serious damage to the surface of the eye if not treated. Fortunately, there are treatment options for entropion in dogs.
What is Entropion?
Entropion in dogs is an ocular condition that causes the eyelids to roll inward. This makes the eyelashes and other hair around the eyes rub on the cornea (the surface of the eyeball), leading to irritation. Entropion can affect both the upper and lower lids and may be seen in one or both eyes.
Symptoms of Entropion in Dogs
Most cases of entropion typically appear in dogs under a year of age, but a dog of any age may experience the condition. Eye diseases can progress rapidly without treatment. If your dog is showing any eye abnormalities, you should contact your veterinarian right away.
A dog will squint as a way to try to hold the hairs away from the cornea.
The tearing is likely a watery discharge (and not tears) that's being drained from the dog's eyes because of the irritation. The drainage may cause matting of the fur around the dog's eyes.
Many larger breeds will have a discharge from the outer corners of their eyes to indicate the possibility of entropion. A discharge may also indicate another eye problem, in addition to entropion, however. The discharge may be thick and with a greenish tint.
Swelling Around the Eye
Swollen eyes indicate the possibility of corneal damage from entropion.
Rubbing at Eyes
A dog with entropion will feel discomfort and try rubbing at its eyes to find relief. The activity around the eye may cause it to swell.
The hairs rubbing on the cornea can develop into non-infectious conjunctivitis.
A dog with entropion may develop a habit of excessive blinking, also called blepharospasms. This is an involuntary reaction to having an irritated or painful eye.
The rubbing of hairs on the eye can be itchy or painful. It also causes irritation that can lead to corneal ulceration. Once a corneal ulcer is present, it will continue to get worse, if the entropion is left untreated. This may cause scarring on the cornea, which can affect vision. It can also progress to a more serious corneal ulcer that can permanently damage the eye. You may see the cornea turn cloudy with a white or blue tinge.
Causes of Entropion
Entropion is thought to be genetic. Any dog can develop entropion, but certain short-nosed, giant, and sporting dog breeds may be more predisposed. The eye ligaments in short-nosed breeds (such as bulldogs) have more tension in them which may cause the eyelids to roll inward. Conversely, the eye ligaments in giant and sporting dog breeds may have excess slack causing the eyelids to roll inward. However, in other breeds, skull shape, facial folds, and pronounced eyes may play a part in entropion.
The following breeds are some of those more prone to developing this condition:
- Cavalier King Charles
- Chesapeake Bay retriever
- Great Dane
- Saint Bernard
Entropion may also occur secondary to other eye diseases, trauma, or neurological disorders. In some cases, another eye disease can cause temporary entropion. If this is the case, treatment of the primary eye disease can also effectively treat the entropion.
Diagnosing Entropion in Dogs
The sooner your vet diagnoses entropion, the less damage it would do to the cornea. Entropion can typically be diagnosed on an eye examination.
Your vet will then need to see if your dog has corneal damage and if so, your pet will need additional treatment. To determine this, your vet will perform a fluorescein stain test on the dog's eye to look for corneal damage:
- A sterile strip with an application of a diluent (such as saline) and a safe fluorescent dye is placed into the dog's eye. Your vet will ensure that the strip does not directly contact the cornea.
- The dog's eye will be flushed of any excess stain.
- A special lamp will be used to see if there is any uptake of the stain on the cornea.
- Stain uptake indicates the presence of an ulcer or abrasion.
Treatment will depend on the severity of the condition. Your vet will determine the severity of the entropion and whether or not the cornea is damaged.
- Medication: Topical antibiotic ointment may be recommended to prevent infections and lubricate the eyes. The condition may or may not progress, so it's important to use medications as directed, see your vet for recommended follow-ups, and contact them at the first sign of any change in the eyes.
- Sutures: In puppies with entropion, the eyelids can be temporarily tacked back with sutures, which could be removed as the puppy grows. The heads of some dogs may grow and change shape enough for the entropion to become mild or resolve completely.
- Surgery: If the entropion is severe enough to have caused corneal damage, then surgery may be necessary.Adult dogs with entropion may need surgery to permanently reshape the eyelids so that they no longer roll inward. This procedure is called a blepharoplasty. It is a type of plastic surgery that involves removing excess eyelid tissue and suturing the eyelid in a more favorable position for proper eyelid function. Blepharoplasty may be performed by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist or an experienced veterinarian.
Prognosis for Dogs With Entropion
After surgery, your vet will send your dog home with an e-collar to prevent rubbing or scratching of the eyes. Topical and/or oral medications may also be needed to manage pain, reduce inflammation, and prevent infection.
Be certain to follow your vet's recommendations regarding treatment and follow-up exams. Your vet will check your dog's eyes regularly to monitor your pet's recovery and ensure the eyes are healthy.
How to Prevent Entropion
Though it may be difficult to prevent entropion, it can be spotted early. Your vet may notice early signs of entropion during a routine wellness exam, so it's important to bring your dog to the vet for check-ups once or twice a year.