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Distichiasis in Dogs

A tan dog looks upwards while standing in grass

Dr. Sara Ochoa author of Distichiasis in Dogs

Does your dog have watery eyes, or are they always getting eye infections? This could be a sign of distichiasis in dogs. This disease causes your dog to have extra eyelashes that can rub on your dog’s eye and cause many issues.

If you notice any issues with your dog’s eye, it is best to see your vet right away as mild eye issues can lead to more severe and even irreversible issues. If your dog does have distichiasis, there are a few simple procedures that can help your dog live without any eye pain.

What is Distichiasis in Dogs?

Distichiasis in dogs refers to the condition occurring when eyelashes develop in the margins of the eyelid instead of the normal locations.  Many of these eyelashes are located on the edge of the eyelid close to the eye.  They can even grow under the eyelids.  This condition is also known as “extra eyelashes.” 

In many cases, these extra eyelashes occur with soft lashes.  These soft eyelashes may not cause your dog any problems, but sometimes the hairs are very stiff and cause discomfort to your dog’s eyes.  The lashes can easily rub on the surface of your dog’s eye, which will lead to them having corneal ulcers. Corneal ulcers can be very painful and lead to scarring of the surface of your dog’s eye, which will decrease their vision.   

Who can get Distichiasis?

While the cause of this disease is unknown, it is believed to be genetic. Distichiasis can occur in any breed of dog, but is most commonly seen in the following breeds:

If you have one of these breeds of dog’s you can easily look at their eyelids and see if they have extra eyelashes touching the surface of your dog’s eye. If so, it would be best for your vet to take a look at your dog’s eyes and see if this will cause any issues in the future.

Signs of Distichiasis in Dogs

The signs that you see with distichiasis will depend on how severe your dog’s condition is.  Dogs who only have a few extra eyelashes may not have any signs at all. Some will have mild watering of the eyes and drainage onto the face.  If your dog has severe distichiasis, these eyelashes will rub your dog’s eye and can cause corneal ulceration or inflammation of your dog’s eye.  Many times, these dog’s eyes are red and painful.  Your dog may not be opening their eye or squinting.  This severe eye discomfort would need a veterinary exam to see what is going on. 

Treatment of Distichiasis in Dogs

The treatment of distichiasis in a dog is only done if the hairs are causing pain or any issues like conjunctivitis or corneal ulcers. If the hairs continue to rub the eyes, these issues constantly happen. There is two way to treat this issue; one is non-surgical options and the other is with surgical correction.

Non-surgical treatments

If the issue is very mild, there are non-surgical options that you vet may try to help treat this issue. By using ocular lubricants in your dog’s eye, it will help improve tear film and reduce inflammation on the surface of the eye.  This is helpful in very mild issues.

If there are only a few extra eyelashes, your vet may be able to pluck these extra eyelashes with tweezers or forceps to remove the eyelashes from rubbing on your dog’s eye.  This can be an option if the extra eyelashes are minimal.

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Non-invasive Surgical procedures

If your dog distichiasis is very severe, there are a few non-invasive surgical procedures that your vat can do to remove the extra eyelashes. These procedures are:

  • Electrolysis: Electrolysis involves inserting an electrode into each gland alongside the problematic eyelashes. A current is run to these glands and kills the follicles.  This leaves the hairs unable to grow back. While this will fix the problem with any existing hairs, however, it is not permanent as new hair may grow back in their place.  Usually, when new hairs grow back, there are fewer of them, and they are usually not a course.
  • Cryotherapy: Cryotherapy is useful is your dog has a large number of eyelashes that need to be removed. Nodes are inserted where these eyelashes are, and the location of the hair follicle is frozen.  This destroys the follicle roots and removes any extra eyelashes.  

These different surgical procedures are only done if other forms of treatment are not able to correct the issues.

If your dog does have distichiasis, there are many simple procedures that can be done to help prevent these from causing a lot of eye issues.  By monitoring your dog’s eyes every day, you would be able to quickly notice and problem and get them to a vet right away.  If your dog is prone to eye issues, ask your vet about distichiasis and make sure that your dog does not have these extra eyelashes causing them a lot of other issues. Distichiasis is not a horrible disease that you would constantly have to deal with, and there are many things that can be done to help your dog live and long and healthy life without having to deal with constant eye issues. 

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Meet The Author 

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM author of Distichiasis in Dogs Why Is My Dog Itching So Much

Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM

Since she was a little girl, Dr. Ochoa knew that her dream was to become a veterinarian. With a tremendous passion and love for animals, she is now a great source of knowledge for others. Dr. Ochoa lives happily with her husband Greg and her babies: Ruby the Schnoodle and Bam-Bam the bunny.

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