EYELID TUMORS OF DOGS
Louis N. Gotthelf, DVM
Animal Hospital of Montgomery
Montgomery Pet Skin and Ear Clinic
The eyelids are made up of skin with hairs and oil glands. The function of the eyelids is to protect the eyeball from dirt and debris. The watery tears are secreted from tear glands located in the upper outside part of the eyelid. Normal tears provide lubrication and important nutrition to the surface cells that make up the cornea. When the dog blinks, the eyelids help to mechanically spread out tears. The oils secreted from the oil glands coat the watery tears so that the surface of the cornea does not dry out easily. Tears drain from the eye along the edge of the lower eyelid to a duct that runs from the nasal part of the lower eyelid into the nose (when you have watery eyes, your nose runs).
There are several types of eyelid tumors including tumors of the skin and tumors of the glands. Some are cancers, but fortunately most of them are not cancers. Some tumors are slow growing, but others can appear to get large very quickly.
When tumors are found on the eyelid, the growth may extend to the cornea and can cause rubbing of the roughened edges along the corneal surface when the dog blinks. This is like having a piece of sand in your eye. Rubbing the tumor along the cornea causes irritation and can result in erosion of the corneal surface and ulcer formation. Tumors along the lower lid can deform the lid and interfere with the natural flow of tears. Tears can pool in a pocket or they can overflow onto the face.
Surgical removal is the only way to remove eyelid tumors. However, surgical removal at an early stage, when the tumor is first detected, can be done with our CO2 laser without affecting the normal anatomy of the eyelid. Laser surgery vaporizes the tumor and does not require sutures in most cases.
When tumors grow large and involve more eyelid tissue, a pie wedge or a “V” shaped piece of the eyelid must be removed to get the tumor out. Suturing that type of surgical excision can be very delicate because the eyelid has to be sutured exactly at the right angles to prevent a crinkled or uneven surface when healed.
When a large piece of the eyelid has been removed, the sutures need to pull the skin edges together and that often results in the eyelid rolling in closer to the eyeball. To prevent that from happening, a sliding skin graft can be done to provide more skin to close the surgical wound with less tension. Sometimes a relaxing incision on the skin away from the eyelid will need to be done to relieve this tension.
The take home message with eyelid tumors is to get them off early to avoid a more complicated surgery later.