Ectropion and entropion in dogs and its animal welfare issues
Sagging, droopy eyes (in the case of ectropion), or lids curled painfully inwards (in entropion) just get me down. These common conditions of the canine eyelids are a source of continual frustration for me.
I mean, what possesses breeders to keep breeding dogs for extreme facial traits that propagate these conditions?
After all, eyelids everted either inwards or outwards are just not meant to be. Depending on their severity, they can cause pain (typical)...and even eye loss (not as rarely as you might think). The upshot of bad lid conformation is that plastic surgery (called blepharoplasty) is required to correct these defects. Not so inexpensively, either.
Imagine a bloodhound with eyes so droopy that he can’t fully close them.
Or a shar-pei, with lids so inverted that multiple surgeries are required to fix them––that is, if the dog is lucky and comes attached to an owner willing to take on this extensive project.
Most dogs with even mild to moderate entropion or ectropion, in fact, suffer for a lifetime with either chronic irritation, frequent infections, “dry eye” (because the tear ducts in the lids are nowhere near the eyes) or corneal ulceration (from eyes too dry or eyelid hairs perpetually rubbing on the delicate cornea).
Does any of this sound fair?
For your information, I’ve compiled a list of breeds that suffer entropion and ectropion:
Entropion: Akitas, American Staffordshire terriers, Pekingese, all bulldog breeds, pomeranians, pugs, Japanese chins, Shih tzus, Yorkshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, dalmatians, old English sheepdogs, rottweilers, Siberian huskies, vizslas, weimaraners, smaller poodles, hound breeds (particularly basset hounds and bloodhounds), spaniels (the Clumber spaniel, English and American cocker spaniel, English springer spaniel, English toy spaniel, and Tibetan spaniel are especially prone), and sporting breeds like setters and retrievers (the Chesapeake Bay retriever, flat-coated retriever, golden retriever, Gordon setter, Irish setter and Labrador retriever are all potentially affected).
Until the judges who determine breed standards at the highest levels of competition stop rewarding breeders for creating these conformational diseases (by breeding for extreme facial features), we’ll never see an end to it.
For your part, make sure you ask the breeder of your next dog whether the parents are CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) certified. This annual ophthalmologist examination is a must for all of these breeds, IMO. And if more of us start demanding this, just as we do OFA (Orthapedic Foundation for Animals) X-rays for hips, perhaps the breeders and judges will sit up and start to take notice.
Dr. Patty Khuly