Shar Pei Eye Problems, Entropion and Eye Surgery
The weakest area of the Shar Pei breed is the eye area. Their eyes are very deep set and there is very little support for the eyelids. As a result most Shar Pei puppies will have some degree of an inherited condition known as Entropion.
There are six main signs of eye disease within Shar Pei dogs.
Squinting or keeping the eyes closed
Pawing and/or rubbing of the eye area
Excessive tear production
Redness of the eye or a bloodshot eye
Cloudiness of the cornea
Blindness – which may be intermittent
Because of the folds of skin which characterise the Shar Pei breed many Shar Pei puppies have eye problems due to Entropion. Entropion is a condition that is caused when the eyelids ‘roll into’ the eye resulting in the eyelashes scratching the surface of the eye. This can be painful for the dog in itself but often results in the dog squinting, rubbing or pawing the eye which causes further pain.
In some cases the condition progresses to a stage known as Corneal Ulceration. From this stage the case can develop into severe corneal damage and potential rupture of the eye.
Treatment of Entropion
There are two surgical procedures to treat this condition: Eye Tacking and Entropion Surgery.
From the time they open their eyes at 7-10 days of age some puppies will immediately have symptoms of entropion:
The puppy will be opening their eye and quickly squinting and closing it again.
You may see a mucus eye discharge
Puppies with these symptoms usually won’t be eating as well as the rest of the puppies in the litter (always assuming they aren’t all affected).
If they have problems at this age the eyes can be tacked to prevent ulceration of the eyeball until they are old enough for surgery. Tacking is a temporary measure which involves stitches being placed in the eyelids to roll the lids ‘out’ of the eyeball.
The tacking procedure at 3 weeks involves giving a gas anaesthetic and putting stitches in the upper and lower eyelids which are removed between 6 and 14 weeks of age.
After the surgery is performed an antibiotic eye ointment is prescribed to help with any potential infections.
In some litters all the pups will need the surgery, in some litters some of the pups and in some cases none at all.
If puppies develop Entropion when they are older than 6 weeks or the problem reoccurs after they have been tacked, the puppy is given a general anaesthetic and stitches are placed which can be left in place for between 1 and 3 months.
As the puppy grows, the tacks become less effective and need to be replaced by new tacks. Some puppies will require tacking at 1-3 month intervals until they are 10–12 months old and have ‘grown into their heads’.
Entropion surgery should not be performed before 10–12 months of age when most if not all of the growing has occurred. Surgery differs depending if it is upper or lower eyelid problems. Some dogs have problems with both.
Lower eyelid surgery involves removing a thin strip of skin from below the eyelid and upper eyelid surgery involves removing a large semilunar shaped piece of skin.
The stitches are left in for 12–14 days and dogs may require sedation to have them removed. On the whole the dogs tolerate this surgery very well. This type of surgery can improve a dog’s well-being by relieving them from the constant irritation.
There are another group of Shar Pei which do not develop Entropion until 1–3 years of age. They do not need tacking but will still need surgery.
If your Shar Pei has runny eyes a lot of the time it may well be Entropion that is causing this and it causes a considerable amount of discomfort.
This is a common condition found in the Shar Pei breed. It is characterised by a swelling of the lining of the eye resulting in puffiness around the eyeball. In Shar Pei this can actually protect the eyeball from Entropion. In general puppies will outgrow this condition.
Dogs have a third eyelid in the inner corner of the eye, nearest their nose. The third eyelid acts as a ‘windscreen wiper’, distributing tear film over the eye. It also contains a tear producing gland which is responsible for over 50% of the eyes tear production.
In young Shar Pei puppies the gland can become detached and can be seen ‘popping up’ and appearing as a swelling in the corner of the eye. It is likely to be inflamed.
Surgery is needed to re-attach the gland. In 10-20% of cases this may need to be repeated. Some vets advocate the removal of the gland but most prefer not to do this unless absolutely necessary as removal will severely reduce tear production which could lead to a condition known as Dry Eye. In Shar Pei, Cherry Eye when combined with Entropion can cause the prolapse of the gland.
Eye cleaning should be part of the dogs weekly grooming and maintenace tasks. Keep the eyes free of gunk and crustiness by using a damp cotton wool ball or pad soaked in lukewarm sterile water. Using the soaked cotton wool wipe outward from the corner of the eye ("out towards the snout"). Be careful not to scratch the cornea. Use dog eye wash if you see redness, which is common during dry winters.
Keep the eye moisturised by using a soothing lubricant such as Carbomer. Apply 1-2 drops in one or both eyes as often as required or as instructed by your vet. In the event of acute or chronic eye diseases your vet should be consulted.
Important: Do not hesitate to seek veterinary advice if you even think there could be an issue with your dogs eyes.