What is Ectopic Cilia?
Ectopic cilia are most often seen in dogs under two years old and there are certain breeds that are more susceptible, which are the Dachshund, Golden Retriever, Lhasa Apso, Shetland Sheepdog, and Shih Tzu. Although it is not usually a dangerous situation, the irritation and ulceration of the cornea may cause serious infection and can even lead to the loss of sight in that eye. The most often reported signs of ectopic cilia are involuntary blinking, watery eyes, pawing at the face and eyes, and depression. To your pet, these tiny hairs feel like spikes rubbing against their eye.
Ectopic cilia in dogs is not a life-threatening disorder, but it can be very serious and uncomfortable to your pet. This condition causes one or more eyelashes to protrude through the inside of the eye, usually in the upper lid, which can create a great deal of discomfort. Besides the pain it produces, ectopic cilia may turn into a more serious condition if the cilia rub against the cornea enough to cause damage or if your dog scratches the eye enough to lead to an infection. If your pet has ectopic cilia, you may not be able to see it yourself, so if you notice excessive blinking and scratching of the eye you should take your pet to see a veterinary professional.
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Symptoms of Ectopic Cilia in Dogs
The symptoms of ectopic cilia include:
- Excessive tearing of the eye
- Involuntary blinking or keeping the affected eye closed
- Redness of the affected eye
- Pawing or rubbing at face and eyes
- Bumping into things (due to keeping one eye closed)
- Not interested in playing or going outside
- Swelling and discoloration of the eye (with corneal ulceration)
- Tear marks on fur around the affected eye
Causes of Ectopic Cilia in Dogs
Ectopic cilia are most often discovered in certain breeds, such as:
- Boston Terrier
- Golden Retriever
- Lhasa Apso
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Shih Tzu
Diagnosis of Ectopic Cilia in Dogs
A complete physical will be done, including temperature, weight, blood pressure, heart rate, breath sounds, and reflexes. An eye examination will be done, but your pet’s doctor may want to send you to a veterinary ophthalmologist for more treatment. If your dog has been diagnosed with a corneal ulcer that does not seem to be healing even after treatment with ointment or eye drops, the veterinarian will often suspect ectopic cilia. Usually, they are detected using special equipment, such as a slit-lamp bio microscope, which provides a very magnified view. In addition, the veterinarian will take blood for a complete blood count and serum chemical profile and imaging with digital radiographs (x-rays) or MRI.
Treatment of Ectopic Cilia in Dogs
The only treatment for ectopic cilia is to remove the cilia that is causing the problem. There may be only one or there could be several that need to be removed. Depending on the placement of the ectopic cilia, they can be removed with plucking, electrolysis, cryosurgery, or excision surgery.
Your dog will be sedated and the veterinarian will use a small tool to pluck away the unwanted hairs. This is the safest choice, but it is temporary in most cases and will only be considered if there are less than five cilia.
This is the safest permanent solution. Your pet will be under general anesthesia during the procedure, which is done using a surgical microscope. The veterinarian will use an electrolysis tool to use a minute electrical current to burn the hair follicle away.
Freezing the hair follicles is similar to electrolysis except the veterinarian uses cryosurgery to freeze the follicle, which destroys it so it will not grow back. Your dog will be put under general anesthesia for this procedure as well.
Cutting away the cilia is used when there is a large amount of hairs that need to be removed. Your dog will be under general anesthesia for this surgery as well, but this is the most permanent solution since it removes the roots.
Recovery of Ectopic Cilia in Dogs
Your dog will usually be discharged as soon as the anesthesia wears off and your pet is awake and alert. Some veterinarians prefer to wait several hours or until your dog is able to eat and drink. A special protective collar (such as an Elizabethan collar) will probably be used to keep your dog from scratching or pawing at the affected eye. You will be given prescription eye drops (or ointment) and antibiotics to prevent infection so you should be sure to follow the veterinarian’s instructions. It is essential that you keep your dog’s eyes clean and protected from debris and strong sunlight for a few days or as recommended by the veterinarian. A follow-up examination will be scheduled to check the progress of the surgery and make sure there is no infection or regrowth.
Ectopic Cilia Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My 1 year old dog has ectopic cilia with 5 lashes growing inwards on his left eye. He shows no signs of discomfort, but his left eye waters excessively. This has been going on for 3 weeks now, and my vet clarified what his condition is yesterday. My question is is there any way this issue can resolve on its own? I found out today that surgery in my area is close to $3,000, so I want to weigh out every option before making a decision.
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