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Aberrant Cilia -
 Common Maltese Dog Eye Problem



What is this?

This is a canine health issue that sometimes affects the Maltese breed.  Eyelashes will grow abnormally.  This can happen in 1 eye or both eyes simultaneously.

In some cases, these extra lashes will be so soft and thin, that the dog will not be bothered by them.  No treatment is needed in that case.

For other dogs, this does become a health issue.  The lashes can cause pain.  In some cases, they will cause abrasion or ulceration (causing a tear on the surface of the dog’s eye)

What are the Symptoms of the Canine Health Issue?

•    Reddening of the eye, eye lid or inside of the lid – sometimes with swelling
•    Trouble closing the eye or eyes
•    Excessive tearing – this will usually be a clear liquid and is the result of the dog’s body sending out extra lubrication to try and flush out the lash
•    Squinting
•    Pawing at the eye – as the dog attempts to touch the irritation

How is the Maltese Dog Diagnosed?

For this particular Maltese health issue, the veterinarian will look closely at the dog’s eye or eyes with a magnifier and bright light.  If the vet is unsure it has progressed into an ulceration of the Maltese dog’s eye, a Fluoroscein Dye Test may be performed.  This will allow the veterinarian to see any tears on the eye
.
How is the Maltese Treated?

For the Eyelashes:

Depending on the location of the offending eyelashes of the dog, electroepilation may be performed to remove the hair follicle.  With this treatment, the hair will not be able to grow back.

  • Electroepilation may be used.  The vet will use a tool that emits low levels of DC and High-Frequency current to “zap” the lash at the base of the follicle.  This method works best if there are only a few lashes that need to be removed from the Maltese.
  • Cryosurgy may be done in more severe cases. This is a process similar to electrolysis but has proven to work better with canines in regard to the hair never re-growing.
For Corneal Abrasions and Ulcerations:

If corneal abrasion is present on the Maltese dog’s eye or eyes, it is treated with antibiotic medication and with medication to help the dog with the pain.

A less severe abrasion will heal in about 5 days, once the eyelashes are removed.

A more severe ulceration will need more treatment.  The dog’s eye must be well protected to allow it to heal.  Treatment for this Maltese eye problem is for the vet to surgically close the dog’s and cover it with a bandage.  If both eyes are affected, the vet may take turns, covering one eye first for a few days and then uncovering it and covering the other one so that the dog may be able to see while the healing takes place.

In rare cases, the ulcers of the dog’s eyes do not heal properly.  When this happens, there will be a build up of dead cells that circle around the ulcer’s edge.  Because they are there, new cells are not able to grow in to help the eye heal.  In this case, the dead cells are removed from the dog’s eye with very careful surgery.

While this sounds serious, it can actually be a good sign.  In many cases, once those dead cells are removed, the dog’s body quickly responds by sending in new cells to repair the damage and it is not necessary to surgically close the Maltese dog’s eye.

Prognosis for a Maltese with Aberrant Cilia

Most Maltese dogs do well with treatment and go on to live with any further health issues concerning this condition.   Regular veterinarian visits will be necessary to check for any re-growth of the lashes.


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