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Eyelid Inflammation (Blepharitis) in Dogs

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When Your Dog Suffers from Eye Inflammation

If your dog has one or both eyes showing signs of swelling and redness, then she may be suffering from a type of eyelid inflammation known as blepharitis. In this guide, we'll review the signs and symptoms of blepharitis, its common causes, and how it can be treated so you can get your pet the treatment she needs to recover.

Blepharitis is an inflammatory condition that affects a dog's eyelid, and in some cases, other tissues in and around the eye, including the meibomian glands. This can be painful and may be serious enough that, if not diagnosed and treated early, it could threaten your dog's vision.

What Breeds Are at Risk of Developing Eye Inflammation?

Blepharitis can affect any age or breed of dog, but some breeds are more at risk due of congenital abnormalities. These breeds may include Collies, Shih Tzus, Pekingese, Rottweilers, English Bulldogs, Chow Chows, Lhasa Apsos, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, Pugs, and Chinese Shar Peis.

Causes of Eye Inflammation in Dogs

Belpharitis can be caused by a very wide range of congenital, bacterial, allergic, and other factors, which include:

  • Eyelid abnormalities
  • Distichia
  • Prominent nasal folds
  • Lagophthalmos (inability to close eyes completely)
  • Ectopic cilia
  • Staphylococcus infection
  • Streptococcus infection
  • Mast cell tumors
  • Traumatic injuries to the eye
  • Parasitic infections
  • Viral infections
  • Sebaceous adenomas and adenocarcinomas
  • Diseases of the eye (conjunctivitis, dry eye syndrome, keratitis, etc.)

Signs and Symptoms of Blepharitis in Canines

If you think your dog might be suffering from blepharitis, you may start to notice several tell-tale signs. Here is a checklist you can use to monitor your dog so your veterinarian will have the most comprehensive information for treating her. Note each of these symptoms if you have observed it in your dog:

  • Redness of the cornea
  • Inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye
  • Pain in the eye area
  • Thick or watery eye discharge
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Small papules or pustules on the skin around the eyes
  • Flaky or scaly skin around the eyes
  • Loss of skin pigmentation around the eyes
  • Loss of hair around the eyes

Once you've completed this checklist, print it out and take it to your veterinarian so you can discuss your dog's health. Your veterinarian may perform a thorough eye examination and select tests, including a Schirmer tear test, to determine the quality of the tear production in your dog's eye.

Cell samples also may be taken to look for any signs of an infectious agent being present. If the inflammation is assumed to be associated with an allergy, more tests may be performed to determine the cause of the allergic reaction. If a tumor is detected, then a biopsy may be taken for further evaluation.

In some cases, blepharitis can develop without any noticeable reasons. If this is the case, then your veterinarian may perform comprehensive blood tests to look for any indicators of a systemic disease.

About the Author

Dr. Evan Ware

Dr. Evan Ware is a veterinary practitioner in Phoenix, Arizona. He received both his undergraduate degree in microbiology and his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from The Ohio State University.

Dr. Ware is currently the Medical Director of University Animal Hospital (VCA) and is also the owner of two other hospitals, including Laveen Veterinary Center and Phoenix Veterinary Center. His areas of expertise include orthopedic medicine and surgery, veterinary oncology and chemotherapy, and general and advanced soft-tissue surgery.