Every year numerous animals arrive at the Tehama County Animal Care Center with a variety of health conditions requiring either medical or surgical intervention. The reason I bring this up is that, for these shelter animals, it is one more hurdle in obtaining a good life. These hurdles are daunting simply because the animals must overcome any public misconception about their health.
Right now at center there are three dogs who will soon be having corrective surgery, and could use temporary foster assistance to provide a comfortable, loving place to recover. Of the three, two will be having surgery for entropion and the remaining canine’s surgery is to correct what is commonly referred to as cherry eye. None of these conditions, once corrected, will prevent these dogs from leading a healthy, normal, active life. So, I implore you to read further to correct any possible misconceptions about entropion or cherry eye, that might prevent you from adopting one of them.
Entropion is a genetic condition in which a portion of the eyelid is folded inward. This causes the eyelashes and other hair around the eyes to to irritate and scratch the surface of the eye, which can result in pain, corneal ulceration or perforation. It can also cause scar tissue to build up over the wound (pigmentary keratitis), possibly causing a decrease or loss of vision. Entropion can affect both the upper and lower lids, may be seen in one or both eyes, and can also affect cats and humans.
While any dog can have entropion, there is often a genetic factor. When caused by genetics, it is usually seen before the first birthday. Entropion is seen in a wide variety of breeds, including short-nosed, giant, and sporting breeds. Entropion can also occur as a secondary condition. For example, as a result of scarring in the eyelid, infection, corneal spasms and trauma.
An animal with entropion will squint and have an excessive amount of tears. Some will be sensitive to light and will rub at their eyes, especially when outside. In others, eye tics, discharge of pus, and eye inflammation might be signs of entropion. Flat-faced breeds with entropion that involves the inner corner of the eyes may not show any discomfort, simply because of facial structure. In some it is never more than a minor annoyance, but in other animals it can be quite painful.
If the entropion is significant enough, the excess skin of the outer lids can be removed in a simple surgery called blepharoplasty. Excess skin that causes skin folds is also removed, and the eyelids are tightened. The sutures are removed in about 10 to 14 days. Some dogs will need to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from rubbing at their sutures. If the animal has corneal ulcers, those will also need to be treated, since untreated ulcers may ultimately impair the dog’s vision. Treatment usually involves the use of antibiotic ophthalmic ointment. Like humans who receive treatment for entropion before it damages the eye, dogs with proper diagnosis and treatment have an excellent prognosis.
Cherry eye is a nickname for a condition known as a prolapsed nictitating membrane, prolapsed third eyelid, or third eyelid gland prolapse. Dogs, as well as other mammals, have an extra, or third, eyelid located inside the lower eyelid. This is referred to as the nictitating membrane. This membrane is a flap of tissue that contains a gland that secretes tears, and is typically not easily seen. When it gets enlarged, protrudes, prolapses (or pops out), it becomes visible and it will appear as a red swollen mass (looks like a cherry) on the lower eyelid near the nose. This cherry eye may be large and cover a significant portion of the cornea, or it may be small and appear only occasionally.
Treatment involves surgical replacement of the third eyelid gland. In most cases, the gland returns to normal function within a few weeks of surgery. Surgical replacement of the third eyelid gland is always the first choice of treatment due to the risk of developing dry eye if the gland is surgically removed. Tear production may also be monitored after surgery to ensure that the replaced gland is adequately producing enough tears. If dry eye does occur, management with eye medications will be required.
The three dogs of which I speak are: Buster (entropion), Udy (entropion and heartworms) and Dexter (bilateral cherry eye). Udy will require additional crate rest time for his heartworm treatment. If interested in learning more about heartworm positive dogs, the American Heartworm Society has an abundance of information at https://www.heartwormsociety.org/heartworm-positive-dogs.
If interested, I implore you to contact Christine McClintock, the center manager, at 527-3439, as soon as possible. She will be delighted to answer any questions you might have regarding fostering or adopting one of these amazing dogs. Please note, the center will provide food, supplies, veterinary care, etc., and will guide you through the fostering process. There are also experienced fosters who are willing to be a support system.
As a final note, in addition to the many joys that can be experienced from fostering or adopting, remember that removing one animal from the shelter will provide space for another animal in need.
Ronnie Casey has been volunteering with the Tehama County Animal Care Center since relocating in 2011. A retired R.N., she strives to help animals in need within Tehama county. She can be reached at [email protected].