Eyelid Tumors in Dogs

Tumors in dogs commonly occur on the eyelids. They are most common in middle aged and geriatric dogs. Usually, canine eyelid tumors aren't cancerous.

Canine Eyelid Tumors Explained

Dog eyelid tumors usually grow from the glands in the eyelid. Middle aged and geriatric dogs most often develop eyelid tumors.

As the tumors grow, they can interfere with proper functioning of the eyelid. Your dog may no longer be able to blink correctly and the tumor may rub against his cornea and irritate it. Your dog may become vulnerable to conjunctivitis and his eyes may water more.

Symptoms of Canine Eyelid Tumors

Not all of the growths or lumps that might appear on your dog's eyelid are tumors. Some types of eye infections can look like eyelid tumors, but they aren't. Lumps and growths caused by eye infection will clear up once the infection is treated.

Symptoms of eyelid tumors in dogs include:

  • Swelling, growths or lumps on the surface of the eyelid or along the edge of the eyelid
  • Inflammation or ulceration of the eyelid, or around the eyelid
  • Increase in discharge from the eyes
  • Irritation or inflammation of the eye
  • Mucousal discharge from the eye
  • Excessive blinking or squinting
  • Bleeding from the eye or eyelid
  • Cloudiness of the eye

Diagnosing and Treating Canine Eyelid Tumors

Your vet will need to perform a number of tests to determine the cause of any lesions or tumors on your dog's eyelid. A complete medical history and physical exam will be necessary. Your vet will examine your dog's eyes carefully; he may examine your dog's cornea using a fluorescent stain, and he may create bacterial and fungal cultures from the ocular discharge and from the skin around the eyes.

Your vet may perform a biopsy on the eyelid tumor itself to determine if it's cancerous. He'll use a very fine needle to remove a small amount of tissue from the eye itself. Your vet will take a complete blood count and may take X-rays to see if the tumors have spread to other parts of your dog's body.

The most commonly used treatment for dog eyelid tumors is surgery. If your dog's eyelid tumors are benign your vet will remove them surgically; most of the time the tumors do not come back and the surgery resolves any problems your dog might have had with eyelid function. Your vet will use either a scalpel or a laser to remove benign eyelid tumors.

If the eyelid tumor is very large, your dog may need reconstructive surgery to preserve the eyelid. If the eyelid tumors are large enough, your vet may need to remove not just the tumor but the surrounding tissues including, in some cases, the eye itself. If your dog's eyelid tumors are cancerous, he may require further treatment.

Often, cancerous eyelid tumors are so small that they don't spread quickly and some, like mastocytomas or mast cell tumors, can be treated with injectable corticosteroids. Others can be treated with chemotherapy or cryotherapy, a type of therapy in which your vet will freeze the tumor.