Canine Entropion is Painful but Treatable with Surgery

This photo shows lower lid canine entropion in a young adult bullmastiff. The cornea has been scarred because the condition was not addressed in a timely fashion, leaving the eyelashes to constantly irritate the eyeball. Copyright Joel Mills

Definition and Symptoms

Canine entropion describes a condition where the dog's eyelid turns in, causing the eyelashes to touch the eyeball. This results in discomfort or pain for the dog. Dogs with this condition appear to blink because their eye is partially closed. They may also have excessive tearing when the tear duct is blocked by the inward cuffing of the lower eyelid.

Causes

When entropion occurs in puppies, it is usually an inherited weakness and will become apparent before the first birthday. Breeds that are believed to carry this genetic defect are: Boxer, Bullmastiff, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Chow Chow, Cocker Spaniel, English Bulldog, Great Dane, Irish Setter, Labrador Retriever, Poodle, Pug, Shar Pei, Springer Spaniel and St. Bernard.

When entropion occurs in an adult dog, the condition often developed as a result of conjunctivitis (inner eyelid inflammation) that has gone untreated. The eyelids turn inward due to constant inflammation.

Diagnosis

While some cases of entropion are obvious, others are not. If your puppy or adult dog is blinking and/or has watery or red eyes, it is time for a visit to your vet.

A physical exam by your vet, which normally will include pulling the eyelid away from the eyeball, will be performed, often with the use of a local anesthetic. Since canine entropion can occur in conjunction with a corneal ulcer, your vet may also use a fluorescein dye to aid in diagnosis. The dye will appear as bright green on areas of the cornea that are damaged. 

Traditional Treatment

Surgery is commonly used to correct entropion.  In the case of puppies, the offending eyelid is sometimes stitched in a way so that it is temporary. The full surgery is postponed until the puppy is six months of age. Prior to this age, there is no way for the vet to know the head size and shape that the puppy will have as an adult.

Surgery will be more extensive for adult dogs with this eye condition. Sutures can be removed by your vet 10-14 days following surgery. A full recovery can be expected if the surgery is performed before the eye is permanently damaged.  If entropion is not addressed, the dog is at risk of developing more serious eye diseases and/or will go blind.

Holistic Treatment

In Homeopathic Care for Cats & Dogs, Dr. Don Hamilton, DVM, advises contacting a homeopathic veterinarian if you have a puppy diagnosed with entropion. He cites sodium biborate and calcarea carbonica as a few of many natural remedies available to homeopathic vets. In the event the natural remedy is not effective, Hamilton suggests using traditional surgery.

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