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Dogs with Droopy Lower Eyelids (Ectropion)

Dogs with Droopy Lower Eyelids

Dogs with droopy lower eyelids are prone to several secondary complications associated with this anatomical feature. Several dog breeds have droopy lower eyelids as part of their conformation, but as much as these breeds may be appealing, they are prone to eye issues which can be annoying to deal with and may turn out being costly too, especially for those severe cases requiring surgery. Genetically-induced droopy lower eyelids in dogs affects the lower eyelids of both eyes. Following is some information about dogs with droopy lower eyelids and its implication on a dog's health.

Dogs with droopy lower eyelids

Saint Bernards are know for having droopy lower eyelids.

Dogs With Droopy Lower Eyelids

Dogs with droopy lower eyelids may have a condition known as ectropion, a medical termused to depict an anatomical fault in the lid causing the central part of the dog's lower eyelid to sag out away from the eye and turn inside out. This causes increased visibility of the pink membrane of the lower eyelid.

Dog breeds predisposed to ectropion include the bloodhound, basset hound, Saint Bernard, Great Dane, bullmastiff, Neapolitan mastiff, boxer, Newfoundland, and some types of spaniel breeds. In certain breeds, droopy lower eyelids are considered a flaw.

While typical of some breeds, droopy lower eyelids come with some problems. When the lower eyelid sags too much, the eye may be unable to properly close. Contact with air may therefore irritate the eye which predisposes it to getting bloodshot, inflamed and induce pain, explains veterinarian Dr. Ralston.

On top of that, the sagging of the lower eyelid predisposes debris to get caught within the gap between the dog's lower eyelid and the cornea. Affected dogs may therefore develop excess eye discharge, squinting and redness as a result of trapped debris. In some cases, corneal ulcers may also occur.

" The Saint Bernard often has ectropion of the central eyelids, entropion of the outer portion of the eyelids, and excessive lid length, giving the opening of their eyes a “pagoda” or “diamond shape." ~ Rhea V. Morgan, veterinary ophthalmologist.

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Acquired Ectropion in Dogs 

Other than as a result of conformation, it is important to point out that droopy eyelids may also develop as a result of some type of trauma to the eyelids such as lacerations or bite wounds. In some cases, dogs who undergo surgery of the eyelids such as entropion repair or removal of some eyelid tumor may develop ectropion as a complication.

Sometimes sagging eyes in dogs may be a sign of illness. Should your dog have normal lower eyelids but then one day, out of the blue, his eyelids look droopy, and perhaps he's vomiting and acting lethargic, chances are he's dehydrated and needs to see a vet as soon as possible to correct this. In some hunting dogs, loss of eyelid muscle tone can be seen when they were tired from exertion.

In some cases, dogs may develop an acquired ectropion as a result of allergies triggering allergic conjunctivitis, explains veterinarian Dr. Michael Salkin. If that's the case, then a steroid-containing ophthalmic ointment can help but a vet should always be consulted first as eye products containing steroids can cause significant damage if the dog is suffering from certain eye disorders.

Other possible causes for acquired ectropion include trauma to the eyelid, inflammation of the eyelid (blepharitis), old age (due to loss of muscle tone) and paralysis of the facial nerves.

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At the Vet's Office

droopy eyelids

If the eyes are not giving too many many problems, the eyes can be kept clean by using saline solution or artificial tears. Vets may prescribe a combination of anti-inflammatory eye drops and products meant to keep the eyes lubricated (like ointments or gels). If the affected dog develops intermittent infections, antibiotic eye drop preparations may temporarily resolve them.

When ectropion is present and causes persistent problems such as redness and excessive weeping, affected dogs may benefit from surgical correction. Surgical correction is mostly done by a veterinarian specializing in eye problems, preferably a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist.

A common surgical procedure used is what's known as "simple wedge resection."Your vet will have to provide a referral to a specialist for this. In this procedure, up to 1/3 of the dog's eyelid margin may be removed.

Following surgery, your vet will suggest the use of an Elizabethan collar. Topical antibiotics may be prescribed and stitches are then removed generally within 10 to 14 days.

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boxer eyes

A Word for Dog Breeders

In an ideal situation, the dog's eyelids rest nicely against the globe forming an almond-shaped opening to house the eye. The size, shape and laxity of the dog's eyelid opening is a breed-related variable. Ectropion is therefore often seen in dogs with prominent positioned eyes and significant facial skin folds.

In many cases, the ectropion is clinically insignificant, and even considered normal in certain breeds; however, as mentioned, problems start when it causes problems.

In bloodhounds, ectropion is reported to occur in 30. 63 percent (source Veterinary Medical Guide to Dog and Cat Breeds).

Because ectropion has a strong connection to genetics, it important that breeders take notice of dogs with droopy lower eyelids and avoid breeding specimens affected by this eye disorder and its secondary complications.

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  • Merck Veterinary Manual, Eyelids
  • DVM360: Genetic ocular problems: what breeders know that you need to know (Proceedings)
  • Veterinary Medical Guide to Dog and Cat Breeds, Book by Francis W. K. Smith, Jr., Jerold Bell, Kathleen Cavanagh, and Larry P. Tilley

  • Muller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology - E-BOOK By William H. Miller, Craig E. Griffin, Karen L. Campbell

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