Entropian In Pets: When An Eyelid Damages Instead of Protects the Eye

How to treat your dog for this common condition

A dog with entropion of the lower eyelid. Scarring of the cornea has occurred in this case.
A dog with entropion of the lower eyelid. Scarring of the cornea has occurred in this case. Joel Mills / Wikimedia Commons

If your dog's eyes seem swollen or look painful, he may be suffering from entropion. This is a condition where the eyelid "rolls in" on itself. It can affect one or both eyes, and the lower and/or upper eyelids. This condition is the opposite of ectropion, where the lids sag and roll outward.

This is a painful condition that requires treatment by a veterinarian. The earlier it's caught the better the outcome.

You'll know if your pet has this condition because they'll show unmistakable signs of discomfort.

Breeds Prone to Entropion

Entropion is seen in both dogs and cats, though it is more common in dogs. It can occur as a result of structural abnormalities of the eyelids or be secondary to other causes such as painful eye conditions such as conjunctivitis.

There appears to be a higher incidence of entropion in certain breeds of dogs than others. Dog breeds predisposed to entropion include chow chows, Shar-Peis, mastiffs, bull mastiffs, Rottweilers, Great Danes, and St. Bernards. In cats, Persians and other flat-faced breeds are predisposed.

Signs and Symptoms of Entropion

Entropion can cause severe irritation and injury to the eye — eyelashes, and hair on the eyelids constantly rubbing on the surface of the eye is irritating and can cause damage to the cornea. Left untreated, entropion can eventually lead to scarring of the cornea and loss of vision.

If your pet has a mild case of entropion, or if it's caught early, you may notice tears or another discharge leaking from their eyes. He also may blink a lot (known as blepharospasm), or squint and paw at his eyes more than usual. More severe or chronic cases will show symptoms of conjunctivitis, keratitis, and corneal ulceration as well.

Fortunately, this is a very easy condition for your vet to diagnose, as the inward turning of the eyelid is usually apparent during an exam. Further tests may be needed to check that the inward rolling is not secondary to eye pain, and to check for injury to the cornea.

Treatment of Entropion

Entropion due to structural abnormality usually requires surgery to correct the problem. Eye ointment is often prescribed prior to surgery to treat irritation or damage caused by the entropion. In young animals, sutures can be used to temporarily tack the eyelids in the "unrolled" position. In mild cases, the temporary tacking may be sufficient, but surgery is often required.

Tacking may need to be repeated to prevent irritation to the eye until corrective surgery is performed. Corrective surgery to reshape the eyelids is usually performed when the animal is more mature. Once the dog has matured, the chances of surgery over- or under-correcting the condition decrease significantly. 

It's fairly rare, but multiple surgeries may be needed in severe cases.

In cases where the entropion is accompanied by pain from chronic conjunctivitis or other eye conditions, treating the underlying problem may resolve the entropion and should be attempted before surgery.

Temporary tacking stitches may be necessary to prevent continuing irritation due to the entropion, however.