Distichiasis is the abnormal growth of an eyelash, or several extra eyelashes, around the eyelid. This congenital disease affects the Meibomian glands along the eyelid margin. In some dogs, the position of the lashes has no effect on the dog and is likely to go unnoticed. However, if the eyelash makes direct contact with the surface of the eye, the eye may suffer from microscopic scratches and irritation. Over time, these scratches may become infected and may predispose your pet to developing a corneal ulcer. Breeds of dogs which have a higher incidence of distichiasis include Cocker spaniels, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Lhasa Apsos, miniature Poodles, Golden Retrievers, Shelties and Shih Tzus.
Distichiasis is most commonly associated with tearing of the eye, a squinting or painful eye, visible scratches or white spots on the surface of the eye and eyelid spasms.
Pets with clinical signs of distichiasis are usually brought to the veterinarian when an eye infection is suspected. Although these pets respond to treatment, the infections may recur and the offending eyelash may remain hidden under the eyelid. A complete ophthalmic examination will reveal the eyelash, but may require sedation.
Permanent treatment of distichiasis requires removal of the offending lash or lashes. Plucking the lash will result in regrowth, so other methods should be considered. Cryosurgery, or the freezing of the lid margin, can be used to prevent hair regrowth, as can other surgical procedures. The surgical procedure your veterinarian proposes will be determined by the number of eyelashes and the state of the lids themselves. In severe cases, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary opthalamologist for treatment.