Common Surgical Eye Problems of Bulldogs

Bulldogs are often afflicted with two common eye problems: "cherry eye", and entropion. These conditions are typically inherited in this breed (i.e. genetic). "Cherry eye" is the popular term used for the prolapse (sticking out) of the gland of the third eyelid in dogs. In certain breeds this gland is not strongly held in place and can stick out abnormally. When it is out of its normal position the gland gets improper circulation and may swell. Historically the prolapsed gland was treated by surgical removal, but this was eventually shown to lead to a condition called dry eye in which the tear production for the eye is inadequate. The dry eye condition is uncomfortable and typically affects the vision as well. The current treatment for cherry eye is surgical replacement of the prolapsed gland. A wedge of tissue is removed from directly over the gland and this is used to create a pouch into which the gland is tucked and sutured closed. Sometimes the tuck is not anchored well enough to hold permanently, and it is not uncommon for a second tuck to be needed. 

Complications of cherry eye surgery may include: inflammation or swelling around the eye as the stitches dissolve; inadequate tightening of the pouch leading to recurrence; and loose stitches that may cause discomfort in the eye. Some post-operative swelling after cherry eye surgery should be expected, but this should resolve and the eye should be normal in appearance after about one week. 

Entropion is a condition in which the eyelids roll inward, allowing the eyelashes or other hair to rub against the cornea and irritate it. The upper and/or lower eyelids can be affected and the condition can occur in either one or both eyes. In some dogs, entropion is never more than a minor annoyance, but in others it can cause corneal ulcers that can lead to scarring and affect vision. When there is a genetic factor causing entropion, as in English bulldogs, it can be seen well before the dog's first birthday. 

Medical treatment with ophthalmic ointments can decrease damage to the cornea, but it cannot resolve the entropion itself. To permanently fix the eyelid, surgery is needed. The surgery is a procedure called blepharoplasty. In this procedure, the excess skin of the outer lids is removed. In some cases, excess skin that causes skin folds around the eyes is also removed. Recurrence is extremely rare. The healing time for this surgery is 10 to 14 days. Blepharoplasty is typically not performed on puppies less than 6 months of age because it is not possible to predict what the adult head conformation will be at that age, and therefore whether surgery would be warranted. Temporary eyelid tacking can be performed in younger puppies until they mature and grow into their adult facial features.

Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

Now that Spring is here, many people who suffer from seasonal allergies are preparing for the inevitable: watery eyes, itchy skin, sneezing.  Dogs can also suffer from seasonal allergies, having reactions to pollen and other plant-derived allergens in the same way that we do.  It is very common for seasonal allergies in dogs to manifest as itchy skin.  When skin is chronically inflamed from allergies, it is easy for it to become secondarily infected with bacteria and yeast.  The chronic inflammation impairs the skin’s normal barrier, allowing infection to happen. 

Managing seasonal allergies in dogs can be somewhat challenging.  Many dogs have allergies to things that are ubiquitous in the environment, such as grasses and plants that are common to the geographic location.  If these allergens cannot be avoided, we must come up with a way to effectively manage the allergies to keep the pet as comfortable as possible. The options for managing seasonal allergies in dogs are quite similar to how allergies are managed in people.  Allergy testing can be performed to determine exactly what the pet is allergic to in the environment.  Once identified, the results are used to formulate “allergy shots” that are tailored specifically to that individual.  The pet then begins the process of receiving the “allergy shots” over the course of several months to years in order to desensitize the immune system to the allergens.  Another option for the management of allergies is the use of medications that control skin inflammation and itchiness.  These medications include antihistamines, immunosuppressive drugs like steroids and Cyclosporine, and a newer drug called Apoquel, which inhibits the enzymes produced by inflammatory cells that cause itch.

Some over-the-counter products can be very useful in helping to manage skin allergies in dogs and cats. Omega 3 Fatty Acids, often in the form of Fish Oil, are an all-natural anti-inflammatory for the skin and can be given as a daily oral supplement.  Allerderm is a topical treatment comprised of a blend of fatty acids found in normal, healthy skin; when applied to the skin it replenishes the fatty acid component that is often lacking in allergic skin.  There are also many different kinds of medicated shampoos and conditioners that can be used to topically treat itchy skin.

Often times it is not any none thing, but rather a combination of several of the aforementioned things, that creates an effective method for the day-to-day management of seasonal allergies in pets.