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Dog Distichiasis: Symptoms and Treatments

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Turmeric Health Benefits for Dogs

If you suspect your dog has distichiasis, you may be looking for information about dog distichiasis symptoms and treatments so to learn more about this condition. Ironically, Mother Nature has equipped dog eyes with eyelashes so to protect them from foreign bodies and injuries, but in the case of distichiasis, those lashes turn out being the troublemakers, causing irritation to the dog's eyes. If your dog has distichiasis, fortunately, your dog isn't destined to a life of teary, red eyes, considering that, with the advent of modern veterinary medicine, this annoying problem can be effectively corrected.

Dog Cancer

Picture of dog distchiaisis

Understanding Dog Distichiasis

Distichiasis is the condition where an eyelash emerges from an abnormal spot of the eyelids. Basically, instead of growing from the skin surface of the eyelid, dogs affected by distichiasis develop lashes that emerge from hair follicles growing within the dog's meibomian glands which are not really meant to host hairs.

Distichiasis is considered to be a hereditary problem that is commonly found in certain dogs breeds such as retrievers, cocker spaniels, miniature dachshunds, Yorkshire terriers, poodles, bulldogs, Shih-Tzu, golden retrievers, Lhasa Apso, Pekingese and Shetland sheepdogs.

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The severity of this condition may vary based on several factors such as the quantity of hairs present, their length, the dog's eyelid conformation and the rigidity of the hairs.

Symptoms of Distichiasis

Because in dogs affected by distichiasis the lashes grow from an area they are not meant to grow, their improper placement causes problems to the dog's eyes. These lashes tend to rub against the dog's cornea, leading to irritation which can cause a dog to rub his eyes with his paws, rub his face against the carpet and even squint or blink excessively. Affected dogs basically act as if they had a foreign object stuck in their eye.

As the irritation progresses, it can lead to teary eyes and even the formation of abrasions that can develop into troublesome corneal ulcers. It's therefore important to see your vet if you suspect your dog has distichiasis considering that it doesn't get better on its own and actually tends to get progressively worse.

 At the Vet's Office

Vet checks a dog's eye

Vet checks a dog's eye

At the vet's office your vet will likely carefully examine your dog's eye to search for the aberrant cilia. The vet may suggest fluorescein staining of the cornea if a corneal ulcer is suspected and a test to evaluate tear may also come handy to rule out other causes.

If the distichiasis is confirmed, treatment may vary depending on how severe the problem is. Dogs with finer-textured hairs may require no treatment if the lashes are not causing them any discomfort. Some dogs with very mild symptoms, or dogs who are not ideal surgical candidates, may benefit from topical ointments meant to lubricate the eyes, providing temporary relief.

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Dog owner may sometimes wonder: Can't those troublesome lashes just be plucked out in a dog with distichiasis? Yes, the troublesome eye lashes can be manually removed, but the problem in this case will persist, considering that the hairs will grow back usually in three to four weeks, and they can become even more rigid and irritating than they were before, remarks Dr. Heather Kaese, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist.

There are several other options such as cryoepilation, electroepilation or cryosurgery. Most of these procedures are performed by veterinary ophthalmologists and consist of destroying the hair follicles and preventing the hair from growing back; however, re-growth of the lashes is always possible. Costs for distichiasis surgery may range between $1,500 to $2,000, according to Embrace Pet Insurance.

Photo Credits:

    • Distichiae of the upper and lower lid of a dog Joel Mills - Own work, GFDL

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