How those droopy puppy eyes could actually be a sign of illness


Close up of the droopy eyes of a Basset Hound with ectropion

Trudy Gardner / Getty

While those sad dog eyes are a feature loved by many pet parents, drooping eyelids can indicate that your dog has ectropion. This medical condition is characterized by the fact that a dog’s eyelid (or eyelids) roll outward. While it isn’t always a serious condition that affects your dog’s eye function, you should learn more about it and contact your veterinarian to see how best to treat this condition in your puppy.

What is ectropion in dogs?

Ectropion is the opposite of entropion. “It’s a condition where the eyelids roll outward, often resulting in a drooping or sagging lower eyelid,” says Jo-Ann McKinnon, DVM, an eye specialist at the VCA Regional Institute for Vet Emergencies and Referrals in Chattanooga, Tenn. “The edge of the eyelid is not close to the eye.”

She explains that the most common cause of ectropion is conformational or developmental – otherwise considered genetic. “It can even be considered a desirable trait, especially in our larger breeds like bloodhounds, St. Bernard dogs, and mastiffs.” Some smaller breeds, such as the Cocker Spaniel and English Springer Spaniel, can also be affected by ectropion. In cases of genetic ectropion, it is often identified when the dog is still a puppy.

Keep in mind, however, that ectropion can also develop secondarily after trauma to your dog’s eye, especially if there is an injury to the lower eyelid that isn’t healing properly, McKinnon says. This can happen to a dog of any age.

What are the symptoms of ectropion in dogs?

If you notice your dog’s eyelids drooping or curling outward, they may have an ectropion. Another thing to watch out for, according to McKinnon, would be discharge that builds up around her eyes. Also, because the eyelid is exposed, it can appear redder than usual as the eye tissues, including the cornea and conjunctiva, are exposed to the environment through the openness of the eyelid.

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Depending on the degree of ectropion, the eyelid may not blink normally. “Blinking is an important protective mechanism of the eye, which works the tear film over the eye tissue and removes debris,” says McKinnon. “As a result, debris from the environment can build up or damage the exposed eye tissue, which can be vision-threatening.”

Treatment of ectropion in dogs

If you experience symptoms of ectropion or suspect your dog may have the condition, it is important to make an appointment with your veterinarian. “A veterinarian will evaluate the position and function of the eyelids and any adverse effects on the exposed tissue of the eye,” explains McKinnon.

The only treatment for severe cases of ectropion is surgery, McKinnon says. “If the degree of outward curl of the eyelid interferes with blinking, surgery may be recommended.”

But surgery isn’t the only answer, especially if your dog’s ectropion isn’t seriously affecting their quality of life. “Not all cases of ectropion require surgical correction. An eye lubricant may be recommended to protect eye tissue from environmental pollution in breeds where ectropion is a desirable trait and where blinking is normal,” says McKinnon.

You should have your veterinarian check your pooch’s eyes twice a year to make sure the condition doesn’t get worse.

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