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Dog Ectropion (Droopy Eye in Dogs)

What Is Dog Ectropion?

Dog ectropion occurs when a dog’s lower eyelid sags away from the eye instead of resting against it, resulting in a “droopy eye” appearance. This condition causes chronic irritation and secondary conjunctivitis, or pink eye, due to the lower eyelid stretching and not properly covering the cornea. Consequently, the normal functions of a dog’s eyelids, blink reflex, and tears, such as cleaning, shielding, and lubricating the eye, are compromised. The loose eyelid exposes the eye to air, dust, bacteria, and stagnant tears, leading to chronic inflammation of the conjunctival sac and subsequent conjunctivitis.

Symptoms

  • Persistent keratitis, characterized by corneal inflammation.
  • Eye discharge presenting as mucus, pus, or brown/black staining beneath the eye.
  • Increased tearing of the eye, known as epiphora.
  • Redness of the sclera, indicative of conjunctivitis.
  • Dryness of the eye, leading to keratoconjunctivitis.

Causes

The primary cause of ectropion in dogs is developmental and often linked to specific breeds, suggesting a hereditary basis. However, secondary ectropion can arise from facial trauma, leading to facial nerve paralysis. Instances of acquired secondary ectropion may stem from significant eyelid wounds that heal independently or other injuries resulting in eyelid drooping.

Ectropion tends to deteriorate gradually as the eyelids lose muscle tone and become less firm with age. Therefore, it’s crucial to seek veterinary evaluation for treatment options promptly upon noticing signs of ectropion in your dog.

Dog Breeds That Are Prone to Ectropion

The following dog breeds are most frequently predisposed to ectropion:

  • Basset Hound
  • Bloodhound
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Coonhound
  • Bouvier des Flandres
  • Boxer
  • Bull Terrier
  • Cane Corso
  • Chow Chow
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • English Bulldog
  • English Setter
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • Saint Bernard
  • Great Dane
  • Newfoundland
  • Mastiff
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Leonberger

Regrettably, ectropion is considered a desirable trait in many of these breeds, contributing to its perpetuation. This characteristic creates a diamond-shaped eye, imparting a loyal and melancholic expression to the dog, prompting some individuals to selectively breed for ectropion.

Diagnosis

Dog ectropion is diagnosed through a veterinary ophthalmologic examination of your pet’s eyes and eyelids. Sedation is not required for this procedure. It’s important for pets to be awake during the examination so that the veterinarian can accurately assess their natural eyelid conformation and shape.

Treatment

The sole effective treatment for dog ectropion is surgery. This procedure primarily focuses on shortening and tightening the eyelid, resulting in a normal lower eyelid length that is appropriately positioned in relation to the cornea.

Living and Management

Recovery from ectropion surgery is typically swift. Eyelid swelling typically peaks around 24 hours post-surgery and may take two to four weeks to fully subside. Dogs will need to wear an Elizabethan collar following surgery to safeguard the sutures around their eyes.

Post-surgery, topical eye medications might be prescribed depending on potential underlying corneal or lacrimal conditions. Additionally, oral antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and analgesics are often recommended.

Sutures from the ectropion surgery are usually removed 14 days post-operation, with the Elizabethan collar being removed a few days after that.

Though complications from ectropion surgery are rare, they may include:

  • Under-correction of the eyelid, which fails to address the underlying issue and may necessitate further surgeries.
  • Overcorrection of the eyelid may lead to entropion, where the eyelid turns inward, potentially causing corneal trauma.
  • Incision site self-trauma can occur if the Elizabethan collar is removed prematurely after surgery.

Living and Management

What leads to dog ectropion?

Ectropion is primarily caused by a genetic anomaly within the animal’s familial line. Acquired instances of ectropion may arise following a facial injury that results in neurological impairment.

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