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.
- Abnormal development of hair follicles. Researchers are not sure why the follicles develop in an abnormal pattern, but in most cases the follicle develops in the meibomian glands located along the inner margin of the eyelids, resulting in the lash growing out of the gland opening and toward the eye instead of away from it.
- Breed predisposition, mainly in dogs. Breeds most commonly affected include: American Cocker Spaniel, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Dachshund, Shetland Sheepdog, Golden Retriever, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Pug, Boxer, and Pekingese.
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.
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