Dog: Distichiasis

General information

Other common/scientific names: extra eyelashes

Distichiasis is a condition where extra eyelashes grow from Meibomian gland openings on the eyelid margin. One or all of the eyelids can be affected. These eyelashes are abnormal and can cause irritation to the cornea. It is most commonly seen in puppies and young dogs.

Abb. GGT7L1LX: Schematic illustration of the eye, front view.
In distichiasis, eyelashes grow on the free edge of the lid (green arrows) and irritate the cornea.


Any dog can be afflicted with distichiasis. However, it is considered inherited and more frequently seen in retrievers, spaniels, Shih Tzus and poodles.

Cardinal symptom

Eyelid pain and tearing


Because the extra hairs are long and stiff, they tend to cause irritation and pain to the cornea. Clinical signs of distichiasis include excessive blinking, excessive tearing, redness and rubbing at the eyes. Left untreated, distichiasis can cause corneal ulcers and erosions.


Diagnosis is made from the physical examination. Close examination of the eye with or without a magnifying lens will reveal the extra eyelashes.


The simplest treatment is manual removal or plucking. This can usually be performed in the examination room. However, these hairs tend to grow back and a more permanent treatment may be necessary. Electroepilation or electrolysis involves using heat to permanently treat distichiasis. A very thin wire or needle is inserted into the root of the hair follicle and an electric current is used to destroy the eyelash and prevent recurrence. Follow up visits are necessary to check for the emergence of new distichia. Topical ophthalmic medications are used to treat the corneal irritation and pain.

Other methods of treatment involve cryosurgery and surgical removal. These treatments are less selective and can lead to permanent scarring.


Prognosis is good once the eyelashes have been permanently removed.


Due to the heritable condition, dogs afflicted with distichiasis should not be used for breeding.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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