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Many dog breeds prone to eye irritation

By BRUCE KAPLAN, D.V.M

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 31, 2001


Question: My dog was always squinting with runny eyes. My veterinarian said he had entropion, where the edges of the eyelids turn into the eyeball and cause irritation. He performed an operation that corrected the problem.

A friend told me only one or two breeds of dog can get this condition and usually not mixed breeds like mine. Is this true?

Answer: Entropion is usually considered an inherited developmental (primary) defect in which the margins (edges) of the eyelids turn in toward the surface of the eye(s). The skin of the eyelids usually has hair, along with eyelashes, that contacts the cornea and causes degrees of irritation, pain, tearing and squinting. The contact may also result in ulcer formation, corneal infections with scarring and inflammation of the lining of the eyeball (conjunctivitis).

Many breeds have an inherited predisposition to developmental entropion. They include Shar-Pei, chow chow, English and American cocker spaniel, St. Bernard, bull mastiff, Labrador retriever, Great Dane, Irish setter, collie, elkhound, smooth collie, bloodhound, Shetland sheepdog, Newfoundland, Neopolitan mastiff, Doberman pinscher, toy and miniature poodle, and Rottweiler.

Other breeds as well as mixed breeds may be affected sporadically. Veterinarians usually treat developmental defects successfully with one of several surgical corrective techniques.

A diagnosis by your veterinarian is essential because some young animals with excessive eyelid tissue may grow out of it. Some of these animals need only temporary correction with specially placed sutures, which allow normal function and limit eye irritation.

There are other cases of "acquired" entropion from abnormal eyelid function. They result in the same problems caused by the inherited developmental defect. They may come from chronic conjunctivitis or a corneal ulcer as a result of an injury.

Eliminating the conjunctivitis or ulcer usually allows normal return of eyelid function with no more in-rolling of the lid. -- Thomas R. Miller, DVM, MS, diplomate, ACVO (specialty of ophthalmology), Tampa Bay Veterinary Specialists, Largo

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Dr. Bruce Kaplan is a veterinarian editor/writer. Please send questions to Ask a Veterinarian, Pinellas Animal Foundation, P.O. Box 47771, St. Petersburg, FL 33743-7771. Because of the volume of mail, personal replies are not possible. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column.

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