"Entropion" is the medical
term for an eye condition in which the eyelids turn inward toward the
eyeball instead of outward as they should. Entropion is a common
problem in many breeds of dogs including Chow Chows and appears in
other forms of livestock such as sheep. Even humans can have
When eyelids turn inward, they allow
the dog's eyelashes and fur to rub against the eye causing irritation,
excessive tearing and pain. Left untreated, this irritation can
cause infections and painful ulcers on the surface of the eye that
lead to blindness.
The most common causes of
Heredity .... the tendency toward
entropion can be an inherited defect. If one or both parents
of the dog have the condition, they are likely to pass it on to
their offspring. Therefore, veterinarians suggest that dogs
with entropion should not be used for breeding.
Irritation from dust, allergies,
injury, etc. .... temporary minor eye irritations can cause some
Chows to squint and rub their eyes which creates a vicious cycle -
the more they squint and rub, the more it hurts and the more they
squint and rub! Eventually, this can cause the muscles
sorrounding the eyelid to spasm and force the eyelid to turn inward,
creating an entropion condition. In some cases, the dog's
eyelashes may be growing in the wrong direction and are irritating
the eyeball as well.
Some people believe that loose skin
and wrinkles on the heads of some Chows contributes toward
entropion, however it is important to know that entropion occurs in
Chows with plain heads and long, narrow muzzles just as often as it
does in dogs with heavier heads.
Relief for entropion:
Entropion that is caused by a
temporary eye irritation can sometimes be relieved by using
appropriate medication prescribed by your veterinarian. In many
cases, though, entropion needs to be corrected surgically.
Surgery to correct entropion is a
fairly straightforward procedure that most veterinarians are able to
perform. It may help to think of it as an "eyelid
tuck" - depending on which eyelid is involved (upper or lower,
sometimes both), a small amount of skin is removed and the eyelid sewn
into its proper outward-turning position. In cases where muscle
spasm is believed to be the culprit, the veterinarian may choose to
also alter the muscles under the eyelids to prevent spasms from
Most veterinarians shave the area
around the eye before surgery. Some dogs' eyelids swell after
surgery but you shouldn't be alarmed - it may make your dog look awful
but the swelling will disappear in a couple of days. It's
important that the dog not be allowed to rub his eyes before the
stitches are removed (10-14 days) so your veterinarian will probably
send your dog home with an "elizabethan collar", a large
soft plastic cone that attaches to your dog's regular collar and is
designed to prevent him from scratching his face. Most dogs
don't like wearing the cone at first but quickly become accustomed to
The cost of entropion surgery seems
to vary greatly from doctor to doctor. You may need to get
estimates from several vets in your area to find a reasonable price
for your budget. Keep in mind, though, that cheapest is not
Baby puppies with entropion
occasionally outgrow the condition so some veterinarians prefer to
delay surgery until the puppy reaches adolescence. You should
not neglect the puppy's eyes, though, while hoping the problem will go
away! The veterinarian should prescribe daily eye drops or
ointment to relieve irritation during this time to keep them from
becoming worse. In severe cases, "eye tacking" may be
recommended to provide temporary relief while the puppy matures enough
for surgery. Eye tacking involves temporary sutures that
hold the eyelid in its proper position for up to two weeks. Some
veterinarians are willing to perform entropion correction surgery on
puppies as young as eight weeks so discuss the situation with your
doctor to determine what options may be best for your dog. For a
few dogs, one surgical correction is not enough and they may need a
second surgery later in their lives.
Q: I have spoken to a
breeder about buying a puppy. She offers a warranty against
certain health problems like hip dysplasia but the warranty doesn't
cover entropion. Why not?
A: Entropion can be an
inherited condition but can also be acquired as a result of
temporary eye irritation. (see the above paragraphs on causes of
entropion) Because the breeder has no control over what happens
to your puppy once you take it home, all she can really do to protect
your puppy from entropion is to use entropion-free breeding stock and
to have your puppy examined by a veterinarian before purchase to
ensure that it is entropion-free at the time of sale.
Q: I've been to visit
three breeders so far and I don't know what to think. In the
first litter, the puppy I liked had entropion but the breeder said it
would grow out of it. In the second litter, one of the parents
seemed to have entropion and so did some of the puppies but the
breeder said it was "no big deal. Almost all Chows
have it". The third breeder didn't know what the word
"entropion" meant. What should I do?
A: Keep looking for a breeder who is
knowledgeable and honest about health problems! Some
puppies do grow out of an entropion condition but no breeder can say
for sure whether a particular puppy will. You should not be
expected to buy a puppy with an obvious problem and no way of knowing
whether the problem will resolve on its own. If this
breeder isn't being honest with you about entropion, s/he might not be
honest with you about other potential health problems either.
In the second instance, the breeder
is dead wrong. Almost all Chows do not have entropion!
This breeder is contributing to the problem by using defective
breeding stock that are passing the condition on to their puppies.
Please do not support this person's misguided efforts by buying one of
In the third case, this person may be
well-meaning but doesn't have enough knowledge about dogs to be
producing puppies responsibly. A breeder has a responsibility to
the dogs and to you, the buyer, to become educated about canine health
and aware of a breed's common health conditions before breeding a
litter. Without this knowledge, s/he could unknowingly produce
puppies with serious defects that may not show up until later in the
Q: I found a Chow at an
animal shelter and I'd really like to adopt her but she has entropion.
Should I forget it and look for another dog?
A: Not necessarily. In
most cases, entropion correction surgery is a one-time expense.
Discuss it with your veterinarian to see if the cost is within your
budget. If you really like the dog, the expense may be well
worth the lifetime of love she will give you!
This article was written and copyrighted by Vicki DeGruy. Reproduction for other than personal home use is prohibited.
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