If you have ever had an eyelash in your eye, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Your dog is no different, except that paws are not helpful for removing them. Various eyelash disorders affect dogs, and each has specific recommended treatments. If you notice your dog pawing at his eye, eye swelling, obvious pain, increased tear production or abnormal eye twitching, consult a veterinarian immediately. Otherwise, risk of cornea damage increases.
While an occasional loose lash in the eye may be bothersome, it is not likely to cause problems for your dog. Abnormal eyelash growth, however, has the potential to damage the cornea and lead to blindness. The three common eyelash disorders in dogs are trichiasis, distichiasis and ectopic cilia. Trichiasis occurs when the eyelashes are ingrown. In distichiasis, eyelashes grow from abnormal locations, including the lower lid, where dogs do not commonly have lashes. Ectopic cilia are lashes that grow through the inside of the eyelid.
In mild cases, or where the eyelashes are fine in texture and do not cause symptoms, conservative management is often the only necessary treatment. Eye ointment is applied to protect the cornea from possible scratches. In cases of trichiasis, hair around the eyes is trimmed to reduce the risk of eye irritation.
In cases of single-lash problems, your veterinarian may choose to pluck out the abnormal lash. In most cases, however, this option is not recommended because the lash that grows back is often coarser and causes increased irritation. When this occurs, permanent removal is necessary.
When abnormal lashes grow into the eye, the recommended course of treatment typically is surgical removal. Multiple means exist. Cryosurgery freezes the hair follicles, preventing hair regrowth. Electroepilation, or electrolysis, utilizes an electrical current to kill the lashes and hair follicles. Surgical excision often serves when many abnormal eyelashes are present. This procedure completely removes the hair follicles.
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