Ask the Vet
Q: “Maggie Mae,” my Cocker Spaniel, has had runny eyes for a few months. I thought she just had allergies, but my vet just told me that she has extra eyelashes and may have to have surgery. I don’t understand; she’s only 2 years old and has never had any problems. Please help! W.S., Farragut
A: I’m sorry to hear about Maggie Mae’s problem. As odd as it sounds, distichia (the medical word for having extra eyelashes) can be bothersome and even painful. The extra eyelashes arise from the Meibomian glands on the edge of the eyelid. One or two soft eyelash hairs may cause minimal discomfort, but for some pets, the hairs are longer and stiff. This causes more discomfort, tearing and can even scratch the cornea.
If there is discomfort or pain associated with Maggie Mae’s eyes, now or in the future, you should consider surgery.
Treatment generally involves cryosurgery to freeze the hairs, which results in permanent removal. Plucking the hairs will not remove them permanently and thus not recommended.
Breeds predisposed to distichia include Poodles, Dachshunds, Pugs, Yorkies and of course, Cocker Spaniels like Maggie Mae. Distichia occurs in cats, too, but is rare.
Dogs with distichia should not be used for breeding, as there is a hereditary component and will likely be passed along in future generations.
If you have questions about your pet, you may e-mail Dr. Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org