Eye Problem - Distichiasis



Distichiasis is the abnormal growth of an eyelash from the meibomian glands along the eyelid margin. This positions them directly out of the lid margin and they contact the eye surface due to this. The harm this causes depends on the stiffness of the eyelash that grows, the number of them and their exact position. This condition is most common in cocker spaniels, Chesapeake Bay retrievers, Lhasa apsos, miniature poodles, golden retrievers, shelties, and shih tzus.

Untreated, distichiasis can lead to corneal ulcers, chronic eye pain, excessive tearing, and eyelid spasms. It is almost certainly uncomfortable for the dog and permanent removal of the offending eyelashes is best when any clinical signs are present.

Surgery is done in a number of ways, depending on the number of lashes present and the preferences of the surgeon. Cryosurgery (freezing of the lid margin at the affected sites) can sometimes be done with a local anesthetic in a cooperative dog. There are other surgical options. Almost any surgery for this condition should be done with an operating microscope or good magnification so many general practitioners refer these cases to veterinary ophthalmologists.

Postoperative care of inflammation from the surgery is usually necessary and should be planned for. There are usually two or three follow-up visits to check for regrowth of the eyelashes and removal of any that return or persist. In most cases, this can be treated with success. This makes life much more comfortable for your dog.

Michael Richards, DVM


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...