Canine Eyelid Masses

Christina Korb, DVM
DJ Haeussler, Jr., BS, MS, DVM, DACVO


Eyelid growths can be common in dogs. They typically develop in older dogs but can occur in pets of any age. Eyelid masses can be detrimental to your pet’s health and quality of life but fortunately most eyelid masses behave in a benign nature and do not result in spread of disease to distant areas of the body. Eyelid masses do usually enlarge with time resulting in structural and functional changes to the eyelids and irritation to the ocular surface (cornea). In a small percentage of cases, eyelid masses can be deemed to be malignancies and appropriate diagnosis can determine if further systemic treatment is needed. Early identification of abnormal eyelid growths as well as appropriate and complete treatment can prevent additional problems such as self-trauma, ulceration, or opacification and inflammation of the adjacent ocular tissues.

Figure 1: Meibomian gland adenoma & adenocarcinoma

Types of Eyelid Masses

The top three most common canine eyelid masses are listed below:

Meibomian gland adenoma and adenocarcinomaThese masses arise from Meibomian glands, which are specialized glands that line the upper and lower eyelids.  Meibomian glands secrete oily substances that help keep the tear film healthy. Masses arising from these glands are often seen protruding from the eyelid margin. They may appear pink, lobular, and often have varying degrees of pigmentation. It is not uncommon for large Meibomian gland masses to bleed and ulcerate.

Figure 2: Melanoma

There are two types of eyelid melanomas in dogs. The first type arises from the eyelid skin and typically occurs as a single protruding smooth pigmented mass, often amenable to surgical excision. The second type arises from the pigmented eyelid margin, is flat and broad, and tends to expand in all directions. The latter type is more locally invasive and can require removal of large portions of the eyelid margin. Alternative therapies such as cryotherapy and topical chemotherapy can also be utilized. Additional therapies such as cryotherapy and in some cases, chemotherapy may be necessary. 

Figure 3: Papilloma

These masses are often viral in origin, and they vary in color from white to pink to pigmented, and tend to appear pedunculated and cobblestone-like in appearance. They occur more commonly in young dogs but can occur in dogs of any age. In young dogs, they can regress without treatment.

Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prognosis

Due to the potential for irritation, growth, and potential discomfort, surgical removal of eyelid masses is often indicated. Small masses may be able to be removed with local anesthetic, while large masses often require general anesthesia. Specialized eyelid reconstruction and ocular plastic surgery techniques may be necessary for complete surgical treatment and in order to maintain optimal eyelid function depending on the size, extent, and location of the mass. After removal, the eyelid mass in question should be submitted for biopsy in order to
obtain a definitive diagnosis and to determine if additional therapy is necessary.

Amanda Brown