Liaison: Hazel Fitzgibbon
Distichiasis is a disorder where extra eyelashes grow inside the eye lid. There is often a second row of eyelashes; this can be a complete row or just a few lashes. These abnormal lashes tend to fall out and regrow, just as normal lashes do. Dis*tri*chiasis indicates that there is more than one lash growing out of a follicle - commonly seen with distichiasis.
Signs and Symptoms
Initially your dog might just exhibit eyes which are producing excess ‘tears’. He will also squint his eyes a lot. Your dog may then start to try and rub its’ eyes with the paw. This can cause a lot of problems especially if your dog still has front dew claws; these have been known to cause corneal scarring and exacerbate the problem. Over time, these scratches can become infected and may predispose your dog into developing a corneal ulcer.
This is presumed to be hereditary, but the mode of inheritance has not been determined
Related dogs with this disorder
A visual examination by a Veterinarian can quickly establish whether extra eyelashes are present.
Note: Treatment of animals should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian. Veterinarians should consult the current literature and current pharmacological formularies before initiating any treatment protocol.
Unless the eyelashes are very fine and causing no irritation, surgery is required. The surgical procedure your veterinarian proposes will be determined by the number of eyelashes and the state of the lids themselves. In some severe cases, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist for treatment.
Epilation with forceps ; this sounds technical but just means that you pluck the lashes out. This is suitable where there are only one or two lashes but they tend to regrow. It is possible for owners to do this after instruction.
Electroepilation - this is the veterinarian version of electrolysis. It has the advantage of usually being a permanent fix, but may cause scarring which deforms the eyelid; it may be necessary to give topical antibiotics and steroids post-operatively.
Cryotherapy - freezing of the lid margin can be used to prevent hair regrowth
Eyelid-splitting or wedge resection - this is very extreme and causes a lot of eyelid deformation
If the eyelashes have caused corneal ulceration, it is treated with antibiotics. The extra lashes should be removed to prevent recurrence.
Distichiasis is a very painful and distressing problem for your dog and needs prompt treatment. If you imagine having grit in your eye permanently, this is the same feeling that your dog has with the extra misplaced lashes. If not treated, it may lead to corneal ulcers and infection.
Canine Inherited Disorders Database overview on distichiasis
Small Animal Ophthalmic Surgery: Practical Techniques for the Veterinarian [By Kirk N. Gelatt and Janice Peterson Gelatt, Published 2001. Elsevier Health Sciences pp 87-90.]
Distichiasis by Race Foster, DVM and Marty Smith, DVM on the peteducation.com website
Canine Ophthalmology: An Atlas and Text by Jane Sansom, Keith C. Barnett, Christine D. V. Heinrich. Published 2002. Elsevier Health Sciences.
No support groups were found. If you know of one, please notify the liaison listed at the top of this disorder.
OFA Eye Certification Registry is the US registry for eye disease in dogs
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is the overseer in the UK. Please note Samoyeds are not routinely eye tested in the UK.
Distichiasis from the Merck Veterinary Manual Online - scroll down the page for a photograph