We all know how painful it can be to have a single eyelash stuck in our eye. Imagine, then, the unending torment of an entire eyelid full of eyelashes turned inside out, with all of those lashes continually pressed against sensitive eye tissue.
This problem occurs in many breeds of dogs, and is known as eyelid entropion, or a rolling in of the eyelid. The condition is not only painful, but it also can cause ulcers or erosion on the cornea of the eye, resulting in scarring and reduced vision. Canines with this condition usually squint constantly, are sensitive to bright lights, shed continuous tears, have eyes that are red and/or inflamed, and may paw at their face and eyes. In some forms of entropion, however, flat-faced dogs may show no obvious symptoms.
Many breeds of dogs have unusual eyelid formation that makes them prone to the disorder, including Bloodhounds, Chow Chows, Collies, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters, Rottweilers, Shar-Peis, St. Bernards and flat-faced dog breeds like Pugs. The extremely wrinkled skin of a Shar-Pei, for example, may be heavy enough and folded enough to cause entropion. In other breeds the disorder is caused by improper development of the muscles in the eyelid, which leaves them weak and turned inward. Finally, obesity, scarring from an injury, eye infections and/or skin infections can contribute to or cause entropion. In some dogs the condition is inherited; in these cases the dog should not be bred.
Entropion must be surgically treated through a procedure known as blepharoplasty, which is basically a facelift for your dog. This plastic surgery removes any excessive folds and sections of facial skin, in order to tighten the eyelids. Or, a section of the eyelid itself may be removed. Young puppies that have the problem may be treated with a "lid tacking" procedure, which rolls out the eyelid and tacks it into place with temporary stitches, giving the animal time to grow into its facial skin. After surgery, antibiotic drops or ointment must be applied to the dog's eyes for a period of time. In some veterinary practices, another procedure is used, in which a CO2 laser is used to contract and tighten the collagen within the skin along the margin of the eyelid.
Although it's not a life-threatening problem, entropion is extremely uncomfortable for the dog, and it can quickly result in serious complications like vision loss and additional pigment in the cornea. Dogs usually make the condition worse by pawing or rubbing at the affected eyes. That's why a quick diagnosis and treatment of entropion is in everyone's best interests.