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Distichiasis In Dogs And Cats: An Extra Eyelash’s Big Backlash

One Too Many Eyelashes Can Become Problematic

By Ellen Thompson. April 27, 2014 | See Comments

Lhasa apso

Distichiasis is a condition when an eyelash grows in an odd area of a dog or cat's eyelid causing serious problems such as redness and irritation. Learn more about this abnormality and what possible treatment options are available here.

Distichiasis is a condition in which an eyelash (distichia), or eyelashes (distichiae), grow from an abnormal spot on the eyelid. This could happen along the margin of the eyelid, but most commonly occurs within a gland located toward the inner part of the eye.

Most dogs and cats diagnosed with distichiasis experience just a single, or possibly two extra lashes, but some pets can have an entire extra row of lashes growing along their lids. The problem with these extra lashes, be it single or an entire row, is that they often scrape up against the eye, causing irritation and other problems.

Why Did My Cat or Dog Develop Distichiasis?

While this condition appears more in dogs than cats, the causes are similar for both animals.

How Will I Know if My Dog or Cat Has Distichiasis?

Symptoms will vary with the severity of the condition, as well as factors concerning the extra eyelashes themselves, such as amount, length, and thickness. The most common include:

  • Redness and inflammation of the eye
  • Excessive tearing
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Excessive blinking, squinting, and/or pawing at the eye
  • Corneal ulcers

However, in some cases, your dog or cat may not show any symptoms at all.

What Are the Best Ways to Treat Distichiasis?

Treatment comes down to the severity of the condition. In some cases, when the lashes are short and fine, no treatment is necessary; but in more severe cases surgery may be recommended.

  • In moderate cases, the lashes can be plucked. However, the lash or lashes will often grow back in four to five weeks. Lubricants to protect the cornea will likely be prescribed.  

  • Surgery for severe cases aims not only to remove the lash or lashes, but to also destroy the hair follicle so the hair does not regrow. Use of electrocautery, cryosurgery, or electroepilation can all effectively destroy the follicle. Removing tissue or a portion of the lid may also be an option.

With the right treatment and follow up care, prognosis can be good for your dog or cat. Left untreated though, distichiasis can lead to serious infection, corneal ulcers, or even blindness

More on Eye Health

Cat And Dog Eye Care Buying Guide
What To Do About Your Pet's Eye Infection
Five Facts About Feline And Canine Glaucoma

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Distichiasis at a glance

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  • 1Distichiasis is the growth of extra eyelashes that cause eye irritation in dogs and cats.
  • 2The condition occurs more often in dogs of specific breeds than cats.
  • 3Symptoms can range from tearing to corneal ulcers.
  • 4Surgery may be needed in severe cases.