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Distichiasis In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes & Diagnosis

Distichiasis In Dogs

A distichia is an abnormal eyelash growth that occurs within the margin of the eyelid (rather than eyelid skin) through the meibomian gland opening or through the ducts; however, they may crop up at other locations in the eyelid margins. These extra eyelashes condition is called distichiasis (double eyelashes).

Similar to ectopic cilia, sometimes dogs affected may be extremely uncomfortable. Mostly, dogs are completely unaffected but when the distichia (plural distichiae) make the dogs scratchy, they rub painfully on the subtle and nerve-rich cornea and cause corneal ulcers.

Mostly, more than one eyelash arises from each duct and there will be multiple distichiae. Distichiae can be found on either the lower or upper eyelid. Most of the time, they will be found bilaterally (on both eyes).

Commonly with distichiasis, a dog will rub or scratch at its face or eyelids due to irritation. This can lead to secondary inflammation of the inner surface of the eyelid called palpebral conjunctiva.

There are several factors for the eye irritation that can lead to blepharitis. This can be agonizing and may be severe enough that, if not left untreated, it could be an impediment to your dog's vision.

Symptoms Of Distichiasis

  • Intense rubbing of the eye
  • Tearing or wearing or Abrasions of skin (excoriation)
  • Blepharospasms (Uncontrolled blinking or squinting)
  • Redness of the eyelid (hyperemia)
  • Inflamed cornea (keratitis)
  • Scaly or Flaky skin surrounding the eye
  • Ectopic cilia
  • Elevated, pinpoint openings of the meibomian glands

Treatment Options For Distichiasis

  • Treatment is not necessary for most the Distichiasis. However, rarely does Distichia get large and cause discomfort or other symptoms to the cornea, then they will be surgically removed.
  • Mild Distichiasis: lubricating gel or plucking the hairs.
  • Electrolysis (Electroepilation): Electrocautery is done by inserting electrodes into the hair follicle. Passing the electric current. The hair follicle is permanently removed.
  • Cryosurgery: Insertion of a liquid nitrogen probe into the eyelid and the eyelid is frozen to remove where the hair follicles. The success rate is 90%.
  • Antibiotics, if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected (gentamicin, neomycin, Terramycin).

Home Remedies For Distichiasis

Check with your veterinarian for post-surgical checks, usually once a month to ensure the health of the dog and to check for any infection.

Until the post-operative recovery period is over, do not allow your dogs to play outdoors. This will reduce the risk of infection and injuring the surgical site.

Prevention Of Distichiasis

Distichiasis's etiology is difficult to understand. This can be prevented by stopping the breeding of affected dogs so that the risk of passing the condition on to the next generation is averted.

Allergy-related: try to remove or avoid the allergens to prevent future outbreaks.

Food-related allergies: consult with the vet for any specialized hypoallergenic diets.

Affected Breeds Of Distichiasis

American Cocker Spaniel, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Dachshund, Shetland Sheepdog, Golden Retriever, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Pug, Boxer, Pekingese

Additional Facts For Distichiasis

1. Causes:

  • Eyelid abnormalities
  • Prominent nasal folds
  • Mast cell tumors
  • Ectopic cilia
  • Eye diseases (dry eye syndrome, keratitis, conjunctivitis, etc.)

2. Morbidity:

Distichiasis vs ectopic cilia

Ectopic cilia are one or several hairs that grow abnormally through the palpebral conjunctiva towards the cornea. Most commonly, they occur on the upper middle eyelid.

Meanwhile, Distichia is misaligned eyelashes that originate along the eyelid margin and due to their abnormal conformation, they may rub against the cornea.

3. Mortality:

Mostly, Distichiasis hardly ever need treatment. The mortality rate is almost zero.

4. Diagnosis:

  • Physical exam
  • Slit-lamp bio-microscope

5. Prognosis:

The prognosis for Distichiasis is really good. As the existing condition is not life-threatening, no rigorous treatment is usually necessary. Relapse of Distichiasis is possible following medical treatment in affected dogs.

When To See A Vet

Contact your vet right away, if you notice any of the following:

  • Intense rubbing of the eye
  • Tearing or wearing or Abrasions of skin (excoriation)
  • Blepharospasms (Uncontrolled blinking or squinting)

Food Suggestions For Distichiasis

Foods to avoid:

  • Avoid fatty foods or high in fiber
  • Cutback on greasy, oily, spicy foods
  • Avoid crunchy or chewy snack foods
  • Avoid dairy products like milk, yogurt, etc
  • Bread products and roasted nuts
  • Avoid tougher meats

What to feed:

  • Whole, unprocessed, or minimally foods (meats, seafood, grains, legumes, nuts, etc)
  • Low-carb dog food (sweet potatoes, peas, yams, squash, pumpkin)
  • Lean meat protein
  • Shrimp, salmon, tuna, cod, halibut, trout, herring fish
  • Blueberries, Kale, broccoli, carrots
  • Oysters and pork
  • Leafy green vegetables (lettuce, spinach, salad greens, parsley, collard greens)


Mostly, distichiasis doesn’t require treatment and are not fatal to the dog. The condition is not life-threatening, hence no rigorous treatment is necessary. Eyelash regrowth is possible following medical treatment in affected dogs.

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