“I think he’ll need to see the ophthalmologist,” the vet concluded as she petted the English Cocker on the exam table. “He has ectropion in that left eye and maybe some corneal disease in the works as well.”
The spaniel arrived at the ophthalmologist’s two days later. He had to show up every three months for monitoring and went through several episodes of temporary blindness over the next few years. However, he lived to be 14 ½ years old.
Ectropion occurs primarily in dogs and seldom in cats. According to PetMD, it’s a condition where the margin of the dog’s eyelid rolls outward. The dog has a gap between the eye and the lower lid. This causes exposure of the tissue that lines the inner lids, known as the palpebral conjunctiva. The danger to the dog from exposure of this tissue and subsequent inadequate tear distribution is corneal disease that can threaten the pet’s sight.
Veterinarians consider ectropion a condition with a genetic predisposition. Dogster reports that a number of breeds have this condition in their genetic background: Bassets, bulldogs, coonhounds, Cocker Spaniels, Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards and Wirehaired Pointing Griffons. Bernese Mountain dogs, bloodhounds, Clumber Spaniels, German shorthaired pointers, Rottweilers and Spinone Italiani breeds are also at risk. The genetic pool includes primarily sporting breeds, any dog with loose facial skin and the giant breeds.
When the cause of this condition is genetic predisposition, owners often note it in dogs less than a year old. However, it can also occur as secondary to a loss of facial musculature skin tension due to age. When vets see it in these older dogs, it usually appears intermittently, often due to fatigue. It also sometimes occurs after vigorous exercise or with drowsiness.
Treatment and management
Vets often prescribe use of a topical lubricant or one containing an antibiotic as supportive care. For mild forms of ectropion, practicing good facial and eye hygiene is usually sufficient.
Dogs with more severe cases might require surgery to shorten their eyelids. Some with extreme eye irritation undergo a radical facelift in order to correct the problem. While a veterinarian in general practice might be able to treat this condition, many refer these dogs to a veterinary ophthalmologist for care.
Since ectropion might worsen as the dog ages, the pet needs regular monitoring by a vet to treat any infections or related eye disorders quickly. Dogster reports that that the typical treatment for ectropion in dogs costs around $2,000.