Distichiasis in Dogs

Overview of Canine Distichiasis

Distichiasis is a condition in which there is growth of extra eyelashes (cilia) from the glands of the dog’s upper or lower eyelid. A hair follicle develops deep within the glands rather than on the skin surface of the eyelid. As the hair grows, it follows the duct of the gland and exits from the gland opening along the smooth surface of the eyelid margin. In many cases, these eyelashes, called distichia, rub on the cornea causing irritation and tearing, and occasionally corneal abrasions.

Distichiasis is considered to be an inherited condition in purebred dogs and can be seen in a wide variety of breeds. Commonly affected breeds include the American cocker spaniel, toy and miniature poodle, golden retriever, miniature long-haired dachshund, Shetland sheepdog, Chesapeake Bay retriever, English bulldog, Lhasa apso, and shih tzu. The disorder is seen rarely in the cat.

Clinical signs vary, depending on the number, size, position, and stiffness of eyelashes.

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Distichiasis in Dogs

Generally, the diagnosis is made by visual inspection of the eye, identifying cilia (lashes) emerging from the meibomian gland openings on the edge of the eyelids, and possibly observing hair touching the cornea and/or conjunctiva.

Treatment of Distichiasis in Dogs

Home Care and Prevention for Dogs with Distichiasis

Administer all medication and return for follow-up as directed by your veterinarian. Dogs treated with medical therapy should be re-examined periodically, especially if they start to show new clinical signs. Following surgery post-operative rechecks are often required for 8 to 12 weeks to monitor for regrowth of the eyelashes.

There is no preventative care for distichiasis, although the breeding of two affected dogs to each other should be discouraged.