Distichiasis is a common ocular condition in dogs characterized by the abnormal growth of eyelashes from the eyelid margin. While mild cases may not cause significant discomfort, severe or symptomatic distichiasis can lead to ocular irritation, corneal damage, and vision impairment. This article explores the role of surgical intervention in managing distichiasis in dogs, covering its purpose, surgical techniques, recovery, and the impact it has on canine eye health.

Table of Contents

Understanding Canine Distichiasis

Definition and Symptoms

Distichiasis refers to the presence of aberrant eyelashes that emerge from the Meibomian gland orifices along the eyelid margin. These abnormal eyelashes can irritate the cornea, conjunctiva, and other ocular structures, leading to symptoms such as excessive tearing (epiphora), squinting, ocular discharge, redness, and discomfort.

Causes and Breeds Predisposed

Distichiasis in dogs can occur due to genetic predisposition, congenital abnormalities, or acquired conditions. Certain breeds, including Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, and Bulldogs, are more commonly affected by this condition.

Surgical Intervention for Distichiasis

Purpose of Surgery

The primary goal of surgical intervention for distichiasis is to permanently remove or redirect the aberrant eyelashes to alleviate ocular irritation and prevent corneal damage. By addressing the underlying cause of discomfort, surgery aims to improve the dog’s quality of life and preserve ocular health.

Surgical Techniques

Several surgical techniques can be employed to address distichiasis in dogs, including:

  • Electroepilation: Involves using an electrocautery device to destroy the hair follicles responsible for producing abnormal eyelashes.
  • Cryotherapy: Utilizes freezing temperatures to destroy the hair follicles along the eyelid margin.
  • Laser Ablation: Involves using a laser to selectively remove aberrant eyelashes and their associated hair follicles.
  • Incisional Techniques: Surgical incisions may be made along the eyelid margin to excise or redirect the abnormal eyelashes.

Preoperative Evaluation

Before undergoing surgery for distichiasis, dogs typically undergo a comprehensive ophthalmic examination by a veterinary ophthalmologist. This may include assessment of tear film quality, corneal health, and the severity of ocular irritation.

Recovery and Postoperative Care


Following surgical intervention for distichiasis, dogs may require topical or systemic medications to control pain, inflammation, and prevent infection. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and analgesics are commonly prescribed to promote healing and comfort.

Ocular Protection

To minimize postoperative complications and promote corneal healing, dogs may need to wear an Elizabethan collar or receive instructions to avoid activities that could traumatize the surgical site during the recovery period.

Follow-up Examinations

Regular follow-up examinations with a veterinary ophthalmologist are essential to monitor postoperative healing, assess treatment outcomes, and address any concerns or complications that may arise.


Surgical intervention plays a crucial role in managing distichiasis in dogs, offering relief from ocular irritation and improving overall eye health. By understanding the purpose, surgical techniques, recovery, and postoperative care associated with distichiasis surgery, dog owners can make informed decisions about their pet’s ocular health and ensure the best possible outcome. With advancements in veterinary ophthalmology and skilled surgical expertise, dogs affected by distichiasis can enjoy a comfortable and fulfilling life free from ocular discomfort and complications.

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