Distichiasis in Dogs

Distichiasis in Dogs

Health & Safety

Many dogs regardless of the breed can develop a condition known as Distichiasis which is when their eyelashes do not grow where they should but rather on the very edge o too close to the rim of their eyelids. Dogs can also have “extra eyelashes” which cause the problem too. Although any dog can suffer from the condition, certain breeds appear to be more prone to developing the condition than others.

Breeds Most at Risk

Distichiasis is a painful condition and one that needs to be treated as soon as possible to prevent dogs from having to experience too much pain and suffering. The breeds that appear to be most at risk of developing the condition are as follows:

  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • Miniature Dachshund
  • Longhaired Dachshund
  • Bulldog
  • Weimaraner
  • Retrievers
  • Poodles
  • Shih Tzu
  • Australian Shepherd Dog
  • Australian Kelpie

It's worth noting that many dogs have extra eyelashes and these do not cause them any problems at all, but when an eyelash ends up rubbing the surface of a dog's eye it leads to a painful irritation that just gets worse over time if not treated straight away and it could lead to damaging a dog’s cornea which becomes ulcerated**.**

Signs to Watch Out For

The most common signs to watch out for should a dog be suffering from distichiasis are as follows:

  • Dogs will squint and blink a lot more than usual
  • Their eyes water incessantly
  • There is a redness in the white of their eye
  • Dogs will scratch and paw at an affected eye which just ends up making the condition that much worse


Dogs suffering from Distichiasis need to be given temporary relief while the severity of the condition is assessed by a vet. There are topical ointments that can be used to help lubricate an affected eye which also serve to protect it from the damage an offending hair can do. When the condition is causing any sort of eye irritation, it could result in corneal ulceration or a dog may develop conjunctivitis in which case there are a few treatments available which includes the following:

Mild cases of distichiasis - a vet might recommend using medicated eye drops with an end goal being to soften the hairs that are causing the problem which in turn reduces any irritation. This type of treatment would need to be ongoing for the duration of a dog's life

Plucking eyelashes out - when there are extra eyelashes present, a vet might recommend removing them which they would do using specific veterinary tweezers. However, this type of treatment option would only be done if only a few eyelashes are causing the irritation. The downside to this treatment option is that the eyelash would eventually grow back and therefore would need to be removed every few weeks which in short, means that a dog would need to have the offending eyelashes plucked out for the rest of their lives every time they grow back

Electroepilation - a vet might recommend using electrolysis to remove any offending eyelashes which effectively destroys offending hair follicles. A dog would need to be put under general anaesthetic for this procedure to be carried out. Once a follicle is destroyed, the eyelash should not grow back. The downside is that other hairs may well grow close to the area where a follicle was destroyed causing further irritation. As such vets usually put the success rate of this treatment option at anything from 70 - 80%. Another side effect of electrolysis, is that on the rare occasion a little scarring may occur, but this is never severe

Cryotherapy - should a dog have many offending hairs on their eyelids a vet might suggest cryotherapy to remove them. It is another procedure that needs to be performed under general anaesthetic. It involves having a probe applied to an eyelids inner surface which effectively freezes the offending hair follicles. It is a procedure that may need to be done several times and again the success rate is between 70-80%.

It's also worth noting that treatments depend on the severity of a dog’s condition with it varying from dog to dog. If a vet thinks a dog’s cornea might be damaged, they would typically recommend surgery to correct the problem.

Living with a Dog suffering from Distichiasis

As previously mentioned, some dogs require ongoing treatment when they suffer from distichiasis which is particularly true when there are just a few hairs causing the problem which would need to be regularly plucked out by a qualified vet. Some dogs may also need to have medicated eye drops put in their eyes every day and sometimes several times a day which helps lubricate them and helps prevent unnecessary irritation which can make life very uncomfortable for the dog.

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