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Aberrant cilia

Aberrant cilia- A Maltese Eye Condition


The Maltese breed is not overly prone to the many eye issues that can occur with dogs; however, a few are seen a bit more often then others. One of them is aberrant cilia, which is a condition that causes eyelashes to grow abnormally.

Here, we will cover:
  • What this is
  • Symptoms
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment options
  • Prognosis

What This Is

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

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

For other dogs, this does becomes a problem. The lashes can cause discomfort and possible abrasion or ulceration (causing a tear on the surface of the dog’s eye).


  • Reddening of the eye, eye lid, or inside of the lid – sometimes with swelling
  • Trouble closing the eye(s)
  • 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


The veterinarian will look closely at the eyes with a magnifier and bright light. If the vet is unsure it has progressed into an ulceration, a Fluorescein Dye Test may be performed. This will allow the veterinarian to see any tears on the eye.


For the Eyelashes: Depending on the location of the offending eyelashes, electroepilation may be performed to remove the hair follicle. 

With this, a special tool is used that emits low levels of DC and high-frequency current to eradicate 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 a Maltese.  

With this treatment, the hair most likely will not grow back; but may in some rare cases. 

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 a Maltese's eye(s), it is treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory/pain medication.

A minor abrasion will heal in about 5 days, once the eyelash(es) are removed.

A more severe ulceration will need more time to heal. The eye must be well protected, and therefore in many cases the veterinarian will surgically stitch the lid closed 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 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 with very careful, precise surgery.

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 lid.


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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