What Is Entropion?
Getting a new dog or puppy is an exciting time. Getting a purebred dog can be a dream come true, but it can lead to nightmares if you’re not educated about the potential issues that can arise. There are a lot of well-known conditions Rottweilers could get, such as orthopedic issues and hip and elbow dysplasias, in this article I will introduce you to Entropion- a less well known, but common and preventable abnormality.
Unless you are a breeder or the past owner of a dog with this disease, you probably have no idea what Entropion is. Entropion is an abnormality of the eye in which the eyelid flips under. The eyelashes and hair on the eyelid rub on the cornea and cause irritation. While many breeds are prone to this abnormality, it is commonly seen in Rottweilers.
Entropion is generally believed to be a hereditary condition found mostly in dogs with loose facial skin. While it typically occurs due to relaxed skin, it can also happen when there has been trauma to the eye. This condition is generally easy to spot with the most common symptoms being watery eyes, squinting, pawing or face rubbing. Dogs can also display swelling, redness, and mucus or pus drainage from the eye. It is uncomfortable for the dog experiencing a case of entropion.
While minor cases cause irritation, severe cases can cause scratching of the cornea and chronic eye infections (conjunctivitis). Since it’s considered a genetic disorder, dogs who have had entropion, even corrected, should not be bred. When getting a purebred Rottie, or other breeds with relaxed facial skin, ask the breeder if the parents have ever required eye surgery or been diagnosed with entropion. Look the parents over and make sure their eyes are bright and clear.
What Can I Do About It?
So, what do you do if you suspect your dog has entropion? The first step is to have them evaluated by a veterinarian. The most common treatment for this disorder is surgery. There’s no need to worry, surgery for this condition is commonly performed and a vast majority of the cases are completely cured in the affected eye. The surgery is called a blepharoplasty, which is similar to an eye lift in humans. The eyelid is reduced so that it can function properly and no longer roll under. This type of surgery takes about 45 minutes and can be done by most vets. However, you may be referred to a specialist.
The cost for the surgery can run anywhere from $500-$1500 depending on the severity and the veterinarian who performs it. The healing time after surgery is 2-3 weeks. It’s interesting to note that several pet insurance companies do cover this type of surgery, so if you’re considering a Rottweiler or other breed with loose skin, pet insurance might be worth the investment.
What If I Can’t Afford Surgery?
This abnormality is not one that should go untreated. If left alone, your dog can develop ulcers, scratches to the cornea, chronic infections, and permanent, irreversible vision problems. Not to mention your dog will be in pain. Think of how uncomfortable it is to get an eyelash in your eye! Here I will mention pet insurance again, it’s a small investment when you’re interested in breeds that are prone to this condition.
What if my puppy has entropion?
If your puppy is prone to entropion you have options. One of them includes adding a couple stitches to the eyelid to help it grow properly. This may be a permanent fix, but down the line it is possible your dog will have issues. In some cases, your vet may allow the puppy to grow without much intervention, but you should not prevent your puppy from being checked out. Again, it is wise to interview breeders about the history of their breeding dogs to make sure you screen out as many potential issues as you can. If someone is selling you a Rottie puppy and doesn’t know what entropion is then it’s likely they are not experienced breeders.
While I have outlined the information you need to know, it is always helpful to hear things directly from the doctor’s mouth. Below Dr. Lindsey Waffle, a large and small animal veterinarian based in Washington State. She answers questions about this condition including diagnosis and treatments options.
Q: How common is entropion?
A: It is common in puppies. I see it in probably 6 to 8 cases per year. I recently saw a 5-week old puppy that developed entropion (1 of 13 puppies) and the dam has entropion. Entropion can show up anytime while the puppies are growing up (weeks to months old).
Q: Should dogs, who are otherwise healthy and sound, not have offspring if they have had it?
A: It is genetically linked and is likely to pass onto progeny. So ideally, if they have entropion they should not be bred.
Q: Will it only occur in dogs whose parents have had it?
A: Entropion can occur on its own without genetically linked disorders.
Q: Is surgery the only treatment?
A: Surgery is the only way to correct entropion. As young puppies, we can temporarily suture the eye open for a few weeks and hope as they grow the entropion resolves. This procedure is typically done with a local block, plus or minus sedation, and typically doesn’t require anesthesia.
The more corrective surgery is performed under anesthesia. Skin is removed below the eyelid to force the eyelid outward so it stops rolling inward.
Q: When do you recommend surgery?
A: Ideally the surgery should be performed after one year of age, after your pup has finished the majority of their growth. This allows time to see if it corrects on its own or gets worse, and to see if it occurs in the other eye.
Q: How long does the surgery take?
A: It takes 20-45 minutes depending on how much tissue needs to be removed. The part that slows the surgery down is deciding how much tissue to remove and where to place the sutures for best eyelid positioning.
Q: What are the downsides to surgery?
A: If too much skin is removed it will cause ectropion– where the eyelid droops too much or rolls out too much and sets the eye up for being excessively dry with excessive tearing and possible under the eye.
Q: How long is recovery?
A: 2 weeks.
Q: What if a dog owner decides not to get surgery?
A: If surgery is not performed, dogs will have chronic irritation of the eye with excessive tearing and pain. If the rolled eyelid rubs on the surface of the cornea, it can cause a corneal abrasion and ulcers- which is very painful. If an ulcer is left untreated it can get infected, cause scarring, loss of vision, and loss of the eye. Thus, in more severe cases, it can be constantly painful and lead to serious deleterious effects with surgery being the only treatment option.
Q: Does entropion usually affect only one eye?
A: Most commonly, entropion occurs in both eyes and of the lower eyelids (it more rarely can occur in both upper and lower eyelids).
Q: Can it come back?
A: The risk of doing surgery too early is that as they grow, the entropion may reoccur which requires an additional surgery.
If you suspect your dog has entropion, be sure to see your vet as soon as possible to prevent long term, permanent damage to the eye. Be sure to screen breeders carefully to reduce your risk of acquiring a dog who may come down with it. If you’re adopting an adult Rottie or any of the other breeds at risk, be sure to watch those symptoms to get treatment right away.
*Entropion is a genetic eye abnormality that Rottweilers, and other dogs with loose skin, are prone to.
*This painful condition can affect puppies as well as adults and often requires surgery for treatment.
*Entropion can happen to any dog who has experienced an eye injury or other trauma.
About the Author
Tiara Nixon is a certified dog trainer and regular contributor to officiallypets.com. She splits her time between her California farm and Washington. She has been training dogs for over 20 years in obedience, agility and rally.