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Eyelid Tumors in Dogs

By: Dr. Noelle McNabb

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The eyelid is a common site of tumor formation in dogs. Most eyelid tumors occur in middle-aged to older animals. The vast majority of eyelid tumors in the dog are benign.

Canine eyelid tumors often originate spontaneously from the glands located within the eyelid margin. Complete surgical removal is the recommended treatment and is usually curative.

Eyelid tumor enlargement can interfere with proper eyelid blinking and cause ocular irritation from rubbing of the tumor against the cornea. Conjunctivitis and increased ocular discharge are common in animals with growing eyelid tumors.

Not all nodules or masses of the eyelids are tumors. Certain types of inflammation may also mimic the appearance of eyelid tumors.

What to Watch For

  • Swelling and nodule or mass formation on the eyelid surface or along the eyelid margin
  • Ulcerated and reddened area on eyelid margin
  • Excessive tearing
  • Mucoid or pus-like discharge from the eye
  • Bloodshot or reddened conjunctiva
  • Cloudiness, bluish haze or film covering the cornea
  • Frequent pawing or rubbing of the eye
  • Minor bleeding from the eyelid
  • Increased blinking or squinting of the eyelids

    Diagnosis

    Veterinary care includes diagnostic tests to determine the type of eyelid lesion and to direct subsequent treatment. Your veterinarian may recommend some of the following:

  • Complete medical history and physical examination

  • Complete ophthalmic examination including close examination of the eyelids, cornea, conjunctiva, and front chamber of the eye

  • Fluorescein staining of the cornea

  • Bacterial culture of secretions of the eye

  • Fungal culture and cytology (microscopic examination) of skin scrapings from around the eyelid

  • Fine needle aspirate of the eyelid tumor for cytology

  • Tissue biopsy of the eyelid tumor

  • Complete blood count and serum biochemistry

  • Chest X-rays to look for possible spread of the tumor

    Treatment

    Treatments for eyelid tumors may include one or more of the following:

  • The recommended treatment for most canine eyelid tumors is surgical removal, using either a scalpel or laser. Complete excision is usually curative for the benign eyelid tumors.

  • Large eyelid tumors may require surgical reconstructive techniques of the skin and tissues around the eyelid to preserve adequate protection of the eye after tumor removal.

  • Certain types of eyelid tumors may respond to medical therapy if they are small and do not invade nearby tissues extensively. Small mast cell tumors (mastocytomas) may respond to systemic corticosteroids or locally injected corticosteroids. Lymphosarcoma of the eyelid may respond to chemotherapy, as this location of the tumor usually represents metastasis (spread) of systemic cancer from somewhere else in the body.

  • Certain types of tumors may respond to cryotherapy, which is freezing of the tumor.

  • If the tumor is large and invades the surrounding tissues, then surgical removal may also involve removal of the eye and permanent closure of the skin of the face and forehead.

    Home Care and Prevention

    If an eyelid nodule or swelling is observed, call your veterinarian promptly. Immediate evaluation of the eyelid lesion is very important if accompanying symptoms of ocular discomfort are observed, such as increased blinking, tearing and redness of the eye.

    Gently wipe away any eye discharge with a warm moist cloth as needed to keep the eyelid area clean. Do not allow the pet to rub or self-traumatize the eyelids. After diagnosis of an eyelid tumor, lubricating or antibiotic ointments may be prescribed until the time of surgical removal.

    There is no preventive care for most types of eyelid tumors. It is well known that squamous cell carcinoma develops more commonly in dogs with pink or white eyelid margins that have prolonged sun exposure. Reducing sun exposure in these dogs by always allowing them shaded area may help to reduce the risk of developing this type of tumor.

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