Why Does My Dog Have a Growth on His Eye?

Growth on Dog Eye: All Questions Answered

In most cases, a growth on dog eye or eyelids means one thing – a tumor. Although more common in older dogs, tumors of the eye in dogs can also develop in young dogs.

The word “tumor” may create a lot of fear for pet parents. However, it’s important to remember that tumors can be benign or malignant. Dr. Rhiannon Koehler explains that “Most tumors on your dog’s eyelids will be benign while most tumors within the eye itself will not be.

A growth on dog eye or eyelids requires veterinary attention. Even some benign tumors need to be treated, as they can pose a danger to eye health and vision. If you notice a growth in your dog’s eye, call the vet and schedule an appointment.

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What Does a Growth on Dog Eye Look Like?

In addition to the visible growth or mass, you may note additional changes to your dog’s eye. First, based on the type of tumor, the lesion can be the same color as the skin or surrounding tissue, or it can look like a dark-pigmented mass. It can also be fast or slow-growing. Some tumors may be on the eyelids, while others are directly on or within the eye.

The eye itself is often red because the mass results in irritation of the cornea and conjunctivitis. Due to impaired eyelid function, there can be crusty eye discharge and increased tearing (epiphora). In some cases, your dog may develop dry eye.

Corneal ulceration is also possible. The dog may paw at the eye frequently in an attempt to remove the source of irritation. In addition to the eye changes, enlarged lymph nodes are seen with some types of tumors.

What Causes a Growth on Dog Eye?

Growth on Dog Eye: All Questions Answered

Usually, a growth on dog eye or eyelid is a tumor, which can be benign or malignant.  There are different types of tumors that can be classified based on their location and characteristics.

Here is a closer look at the common causes of growth on dog eye.

  • Eyelid Tumors: Eyelid masses are the most prevalent type of eye growth in dogs. Some of the most common dog eyelid tumors are adenomas (benign) & epitheliomas  (benign) of the meibomian glands. Other tumor types could include melanomas, histiocytomas, melanocytomas of the eyelid margin, mastocytomas, and papillomas. Adenocarcinomas, which are malignant, are not as common.
  • Orbital Tumors: Orbital tumors in dogs usually occur behind the eye, meaning they are not typically visible to the pet parent. They can cause the eye to protrude forward in comparison to the normal eye, and they can affect movement of the eye. These tumors can cause swelling of the conjunctiva, cornea, and eyelid. Typically, these tumors are non-painful. According to the MSD Veterinary Manual, 90% of orbital tumors in dogs are malignant, thus resulting in poor prognosis.
  • Tumors of the Cornea: Malignant melanomas and squamous cell carcinomas of the cornea are rare in dogs. If there is a growth on the dog’s cornea, the more likely diagnoses are nodular fasciitis (a clump of fast-growing benign cells) and proliferative keratoconjunctivitis (inflammation of the cornea & conjunctiva). Proliferative keratoconjunctivitis is particularly common in Collies.
  • Tumors of the Uvea: The most common tumors of the uvea are melanoma, adenoma, and adenocarcinoma. Some types of tumors of the uvea require enucleation (eye removal) as a treatment.
  • Other Dog Tumors: Sometimes, tumors, such as hemangiosarcoma, lymphosarcoma, and venereal tumors, can spread to the eyes. Such metastasis can be found in one or both eyes.

How Do I Get Rid of My Dog’s Eyelid Growth?

Growth on Dog Eye: All Questions Answered

To get rid of a growth on dog eye or eyelid, go to your trusted veterinarian and get a proper diagnosis. Then, the vet will either perform treatment themself or refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist or surgeon. Dr. Rhiannon Koehler notes that “early detection is essential for having the most positive outcome!”

Based on the tumor type, they will recommend a treatment option. Here are some of the ways of getting rid of dog eye and eyelid growths.

  • Surgical Excision: Surgical removal is the go-to solution for many tumors of the dog eyelid. However, frequent follow-ups are required, as tumor regrowth is possible with certain types of tumors. Whether or not an eyelid tumor can be removed surgically is dependent on the tumor’s size. In most cases, you can remove 25-33% of the margin of the eyelid and still allow the eye to close, though this differs between breeds.
  • Cryosurgery: Also known as tissue freezing, cryotherapy is another option for eyelid tumors. Depending on how cooperative the dog is, it can be done with a local anesthetic or general anesthesia.
  • Enucleation: Also known as surgical removal of the eyeball, is recommended in severe cases when there is permanent damage to the eye structures. This is also more likely to be recommended for tumors affecting the eyeball itself. For orbital tumors, removal of the eye will also include all of the structures within the orbit of the skull.

Once the growth on dog eye or eyelid is removed, the veterinarian will likely recommend sending the tissues to a pathologist to determine what the tumor type is and how aggressive it appears. Based on these findings, the vet may suggest chemotherapy or additional treatments. 

Following eyelid surgeries or surgeries that involve removing small parts of the cornea, the veterinarian will likely prescribe medicated eye drops with anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. If the whole eye is removed, medications will likely be oral. 

What Happens if an Eye Growth Goes Untreated on a Dog?

Even if the growth on dog eye or eyelid is not cancerous (malignant), it is best that it is removed. 

Dr. Rhiannon Koehler notes that “While a small, benign mass elsewhere on your dog’s body might not be concerning, these masses can wreak quite a bit of havoc on the eye if they’re rubbing and irritating the cornea. 

She advises pet owners to “follow up with their veterinarians if they notice any changes to or around their dog’s eyes.”

What Can I Do to Prevent My Dog’s Growth on His Eyelid?

Sadly, a growth on dog eye or eyelid cannot be prevented. However, there are some things pet owners can do to keep their dogs’ eyes as healthy as possible.

  • Eye Hygiene: There are many dog eye washes and eye wipes designed for regular use. They keep the dog’s eyes clean, and while using them, you can inspect the dog’s eyes for growth or any other changes. This is more of a concern in dogs who have frequent discharge or thick skin folds around their eyes.
  • Regular Grooming: Grooming is an important part of keeping the dog clean. Keep the hairs around the dog’s eyes properly groomed to prevent them from irritating the eyes.
  • High-Quality Diet: A healthy, balanced, and nutritious diet is the bedrock of health. Give your dog a high-quality diet full of vitamins and antioxidants that support healthy vision.
  • Periodic Vet Visits: Regular veterinary check-ups help keep your dog healthy and can prevent the flare-up of any diseases. Your veterinarian may notice a small mass on your dog’s eyelid earlier than you might.
  • Examine Your Dog’s Eyes: We recommend that you familiarize yourself with your dog’s normal appearance. It is smart to look your dog over every month for any changes. This may allow you to notice changes, like eye or eyelid growths, while they are still small and more easily manageable.