Have you ever had an eyelash in your eye that caused that horrible scratching, itchy, and irritated sensation? Well how about having a whole eyelid full of eyelashes turned inward against your eye, it wouldn't be pleasant, would it?
That is exactly what dogs that have entropion are dealing with. This condition can be hereditary as well as caused by injury or disease. Entropion is common in many breeds of dogs, both purebred and mixed breed, and is one of the leading eye problems that puppies and dogs experience. Although it is most commonly noted on the lower eyelid it can also be present on the upper eyelid as well. In puppies the condition is usually noted very shortly after the puppy opens his or her eye and can be corrected at this time with a simple surgical procedure that pulls the eyelid down and stitches it to keep the eyelid in the correct, outward facing position. Usually these stitches are in place only 7 to 10 days to allow the eyelid to be trained to stay in place. In puppies entropion is almost always an inherited condition; however, there are other conditions that can occur to cause the eyelid to roll inward in adult dogs.
Adult dogs can develop entropion due to a condition that causes the eyeball to move or to sink back into the skull. This condition, known as enophthalmos is relatively uncommon but it can occur. In addition to enophthalmos, an injury to the face or orbit bone of the eye that causes the eyeball to move inwards will cause the eyelid to no longer lie flat against the surface of the eye. In the process of blinking the pressure from the larger upper eyelid can force the outer edge of the lower eyelid to roll inward and become stuck in this position. Neurological disorders that cause spasms of the eyelids and eye muscles may also lead to entropion.
The biggest concern with entropion is that it is very painful to the dog and can lead to severe corneal damage and blindness if not treated quickly. The constant abrasion of the eyelashes on the eyeball can lead to severe and blinding eye infections. Another problem that often occurs with entropion is eye gland dysfunction leading to cherry eye or excessive tearing as the eye tries to provide additional lubrication. In adult dogs the treatment is a surgical procedure involving removing some excess skin from the margin of the eye to ensure that the eyelid can no longer roll inward. Antibiotics in both oral and topical form can also be used if the cornea has been irritated or if there is a bacterial infection in the area.
The most common signs that dog owners should watch for are tearing, scratching, or rubbing of the eyes, pus or discharge from the eyes, squinting or keeping the eyes closed, and obvious rolling inward of the lower or upper eye. Breeds that owners should be most concerned with developing entropion include the Shar Pei, Chow Chow, Irish Setter, Great Dane, Labrador Retriever, and the English Bulldog.