Ectropion in Dogs

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A basset hound with ectropion stands in green grass

Dr. Erica Irish author of Ectropion in Dogs

Have you ever seen a dog with droopy eyes? Most pet owners might think that is normal for some dogs, especially hound dogs, but it may surprise you to learn that droopy eyes are a medical condition called ectropion. What causes ectropion, and what are some things that you can do to help manage it?


What is ectropion in dogs?

Ectropion is an abnormality of the lower eyelids that causes them to appear droopy. The lower eyelid rolls outward and exposes sensitive pink tissues known as theconjunctivae. It can also contribute to dryness of the cornea and inflammation of the cornea, akakeratitis. This can increase the risk of infection and cause a lot of pain since the cornea is so sensitive.

In many cases, ectropion is inherited. This means that certain breeds are more susceptible to developing it before one year of age. Cocker Spaniels, English Bulldogs, Saint Bernards, Mastiffs, Bloodhounds, and Newfoundlands are some of the most common breeds.

Sometimes, dogs can develop ectropion due to other illnesses. Facial nerve paralysis can affect the muscles that move the face and open the eyelids, so paralysis will cause the eyelids and often the entire face to droop. It is especially noticeable when only one side is affected because the opposite eyelid will appear normal.

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, and this leads to the slowing down of important body functions. It can also result in the drooping of the face and eyelids in dogs and even in people.


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Diagnosis and treatment

Ectropion is easily diagnosed based on physical examination. The lower lid will droop downward and outward, exposing pink conjunctival tissue. Sometimes, this results in mucoid discharge around the eyelid margin and/or tear staining on the fur just beneath the eyes.

When diagnosed in a young dog, it is most likely genetic in origin. For an adult or senior dogs, the sudden appearance of ectropion will indicate an underlying cause, and testing will be necessary to rule out various illnesses. Blood and urine testing are important baseline tests, but in some cases, more invasive testing like muscle tissue biopsies will be necessary in order to diagnose a neuromuscular disorder.

For any dog with reddened conjunctiva, eye discharge, squinting, or other acute eye problems, corneal stain testing is necessary to rule out an ulcer or abrasion over the cornea. If dry eye is suspected, Schirmer tear testing is easily performed to help rule it out.

Dogs with corneal ulcers or keratitis will require topical eye ointments or drops to help treat it. If dry eye is present, there are medications to help lubricate the eyes. Ultimately, surgical therapy will be necessary if these eye conditions occur more than once.

Veterinary ophthalmologists and even some general practice veterinarians can perform this kind of surgery. It involves the removal of small amounts of the surrounding skin to help the eyelid contact the eye again. However, great care is necessary to ensure that the eyelid is not overcorrected. In this case, the opposite condition,entropion, is created.

For dogs with hypothyroidism, thyroid medication is prescribed and administered on a twice-daily basis. Thyroid blood levels are then rechecked several weeks later to ensure that dosing is appropriate for your pup. If a neuromuscular disorder is confirmed via biopsy, medications like steroids or immunosuppressives may be necessary based on the diagnosis.

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Ectropion can be a mild problem in some breeds, but if eye infections and discomfort result, then treatment is necessary. Medical management can help with short-term care, but surgical management may be recommended in cases where these problems are recurring. Eye lubricants can help keep your pup’s eyes from drying out.  


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Meet The Author 

Dr. Erica Irish author of Ectropion in Dogs

Dr. Erica Irish

Erica has worked in the veterinary field since 2006, starting out as a veterinary technician before graduating from the UF College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. As a general practitioner in an animal hospital, she has many interests and is especially interested in dermatology, cardiology, internal and integrative medicine.