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Ectopic cilia is abnormal hair growth that erupts from inside of the eyelid, directly in contact with the cornea. Ectopic cilia should not be confused with distichia (abnormal hair growth from the eyelid margin, pointing inwards towards the cornea). Our factsheet aims to answer any questions you may have about ectopic cilia, including causes, symptoms and treatment options available to you with Knutsford Vets.

What is Ectopic Cilia

Ectopic cilia is abnormal hair growth that erupts from inside of the eyelid, directly in contact with the cornea. Not to be confused with distichia, abnormal hair growth caused by ectopic cilia emerges underneath the eyelid and can be difficult to detect. The disorder is usually not a dangerous condition, however, left untreated ectopic cilia is painful and can lead to corneal ulceration.

Although the condition usually only affects one eye, both eyes can be affected.

Causes of Ectopic Cilia

Like distichia, ectopic cilia is thought to be an inherited disorder in which genetic factors in predisposed breeds are likely to be responsible. The disorder usually affects dogs under two years of age.

What breeds are at risk of ectopic cilia?

Ectopic cilia is a disease that is mostly seen in young dogs and cross breeds. Breeds most likely to develop ectopic cilia include:

Boxers

Bulldogs

Miniature Long-Haired Dachshund

Retriever

Flat-Coated Retriever

Welsh Springer Spaniel

English Cocker Spaniel

American Cocker Spaniel

Shetland Sheepdog

Symptoms of ectopic cilia

Whilst ectopic cilia can be difficult to detect, there are a number of signs to look out for. However, the symptoms of ectopic cilia tend to be similar to those of other ocular conditions in dogs, particularly distichia, therefore it is important to have your pet checked by a vet if you notice any of the following signs:

Excessive tearing, swelling, and discoloration of the eye

To alleviate the pain and discomfort of ectopic cilia, your pet may begin to excessively produce tears. You may also notice a degree of swelling and discolouration to the eye, although these symptoms can be attributed to other ocular conditions.

Involuntary blinking, squinting, or keeping their eyes closed

The abnormal hairs growing under your pet’s eyelid can be quite painful or uncomfortable. As a result of this, you may notice your pet blinking or squinting more than usual, or completely closing their affected eye to help manage the pain.

Pawing or rubbing at their face and eyes

The discomfort of the condition may cause your dog to paw at the affected area, either in distress, or as a way to attempt to manage the discomfort.

Corneal Ulceration

As well as swelling and irritation, the abnormal hair growth touching the cornea may cause corneal ulcers on or close to the surface of the eye as a result of damage to the cornea.

Causes of Ectopic Cilia

Like distichia, ectopic cilia is thought to be an inherited disorder in which genetic factors in predisposed breeds are likely to be responsible. The disorder usually affects dogs under two years of age.

What breeds are at risk of ectopic cilia?

Ectopic cilia is a disease that is mostly seen in young dogs and cross breeds. Breeds most likely to develop ectopic cilia include:

Ectopic Cilia treatment options

The treatment for ectopic cilia in dogs is surgery to remove the root of the abnormal hair. This is performed urgently under general anaesthesia using a scalpel or punch biopsy, ensuring that enough of the surrounding tissue is also removed. The removal of the abnormal hair and root means that the condition is unlikely to reoccur.

Any secondary conditions such as corneal ulcers will also be treated before an Elizabethan collar is applied to your dog to prevent them from pawing at the affected area until it heals.

Knutsford Vets Surgery

By choosing Knutsford Vets Surgery, your pet will be in the safe hands of experienced Ophthalmologist, Dr Paul Adams. Dr Adams has years of experience treating a wide range of eye conditions, and is the perfect partner to look after your pet’s ocular health.

We welcome new patients, second opinions and referrals.

Our friendly team is on hand if you have any questions. Contact us on 01565 337999.

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