Ectropion is usually thought of as a condition of the eyelids. The term can actually apply to any body part, as its two components stem from the Greek prefix “ec” which means outward, and the Greek root, “tropos,” meaning to turn. For the purposes of our discussion today we will refer only to the eyelids.
The poster children for ectropion in veterinary medicine are the Basset hound and the bloodhound. From the photo you can see that Elvis has droopiness of the lower eyelids,
so extreme that the conjunctiva, or pink tissues inside the lids are showing.
Cocker spaniels are another breed that commonly suffers from this condition.
These three types of dogs all have congenital ectropion, meaning they were born with the condition.
Ectropion can occur from means other than genetics, however. Another cause, though much less common is Facial Nerve Paralysis, also called Bell’s Palsy, a result of damage to cranial nerve VII. This can be a temporary or permanent condition, depending on the cause and extent of the nerve damage.
Cicatricial ectropion is caused by scarring, as from a wound or injury, that pulls an upper lid up or a lower lid down.
Iatrogenic ectropion is usually a result of a surgical procedure called blepharoplasty. Again from the Greek, “blepharo” refers to the eyelids and “plasty” refers to the techniques, usually surgical, to change the shape of a body part. “Iatrogenic” refers to damage caused by a doctor. For example, if a veterinarian is seeking to repair the condition known as entropion, which is an in-rolling of the eyelids, he could perform certain techniques that would over-correct and roll the eyelids outward. A little bit of iatrogenic ectropion is acceptable after entropion surgery, as we often slightly over-correct to prevent having to go back in for another surgery.
The presence of ectropion in dogs and cats, as in people, is potentially deleterious because of the exposure of the globe (eyeball) and the tendency for the drooping eyelid to collect dirt, pollen, sticks and other foreign matter. Such material, then, is likely to irritate the eye, leading to complicating factors.
In addition, a drooping lower eyelid has a difficult time connecting to the upper eyelid to properly protect and lubricate the globe, especially during blinking. Failing to adequately protect the eye can lead to exposure keratitis, corneal ulcer, pigmentation and, ultimately, blindness.
Therefore, if your pet’s doctor recommends surgical repair of your dog’s ectropion, you know that he has the pet’s best interest at heart.