Distichiasis is a condition where eyelashes emerge from a structure in the eyelid (Meibomian gland) which does not
normally produce hairs. These "extra" eyelashes often rub on the surface of the eye and may cause irritation.
Distichiasis tends to run in genetic lines of dogs, and is most commonly found in retrievers, spaniels, and poodles.
The severity of the problem and the needs for treatment vary from patient to patient. Some patients may have only a
few distichia (abnormal hairs) on a single eyelid, while others may have several distichia present on many eyelids.
Although some patients live their entire lives without being bothered by their distichia, others require medical or
surgical treatment to alleviate irritation caused by the hairs rubbing on the cornea.
Signs that a patient may be bothered by distichiasis include: redness, squinting, discharge, or rubbing at the eye.
Sometimes distichiasis can cause corneal ulcers or erosions where the hairs touch the surface of the eye. Clinical signs
of corneal ulcers are similar to those of distichiasis: redness, squinting, discharge, or rubbing at the eye.
Temporary relief may be provided by pulling out the abnormal hair in the exam room, but these lashes almost always
grow back. Topical ointments may be used to help lubricate the eye and protect it from the hair. If clinical signs
persist, one of two different surgical procedures can be used to treat distichiasis. One method, cauterization, involves
applying heat to the eyelid. An alternative method, cryosurgery, involves freezing the lid. Both procedures kill the
roots and serve to prevent the distichia from growing back.
Although cryosurgery will prevent the distichia from growing back in the same area, there are several dozen places
along each lid where new distichia could potentially emerge. Therefore, while surgery fixes the immediate problem, it
is possible that the patient could have a future distichiasis problem if new distichia grow from other areas on the
We wish to Thank the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists for allowing the use of their definitions on