Why Do Some Labradors Have Droopy Eyes? What Does It Mean?

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Droopy eyes are common in Labradors. However, some conditions are more severe than others and may be a cause of an alarm. So, why do some Labs have droopy eyes?

Some Labs have droopy eyes because of spinal or brain tumors, trauma or injuries to the area, advanced age, or infections of the nervous tissues. However, it is also a condition that can be inherited from the dog’s parents and in some cases, the causes are unknown (idiopathic causes).

Make sure you fully understand the difference between what regular eyes look like compared to droopy eyes in Labs. I'll discuss some of the symptoms, causes, and preventative measures that can be taken to stop the continuation or worsening of droopy eyes in Labs.

Droopy Eyes in Labradors

Droopy eyes, also known as ectropion, are common eyelid problems in most canines, especially Labradors. Ectropion manifests as an abnormal eyelid, whereby the lower eyelid droops and rolls out in an everted manner.

Ectropion causes the sensitive conjunctival tissues lining the eyelids’ inner surface exposed and covering the eyeballs. 

This exposure causes drying of the eye tissues and may predispose your Lab to conjunctivitis and, in extreme cases, keratitis (corneal inflammation). Such conditions can hurt your furry canine friend and may make it feel uncomfortable.

Causes of Droopy Eyes in Labs

Hereditary issues, brain and spinal tumors, and nervous tissues infections are possible factors that cause some Labs to have droopy eyes.

Labradors are among the canine breeds with a high knack for droopy eyes. This predisposition is linked to their hereditary aspects. Hereditary ectropion mainly affects the lower lid. It's not often uncomfortable because your pup adapts to living with it.

So, if you notice a small degree of ectropion in your Lab, it might be an inherited condition. This shouldn't be a cause of alarm. 

However, if the droop is excessive, making your canine uncomfortable, or he appears to be in pain, you should seek immediate medical attention.

Besides inheritance, which is the primary cause of droopy eyes in Lab's, other primary causes include:

  • Facial nerve paralysis: A nerve paralysis in your Lab's face can trigger ectropion in the affected side.
  • Age: Mild droopy eyes can worsen as your dog ages. With aging comes the weakening of the body muscles, including eye muscles which can worsen a preexisting mild ectropion case.
  • Brain and spinal tumors: A brain or spinal tumor or infection can affect the sympathetic nervous system that controls the functioning of different body organs, including the eyes. With the nervous system affected, your pup will likely experience eyelid problems, among them droopy eyelids.
  • Trauma: Scarring your pup's eyelid from traumas caused by surgical operations, burns, or accidents can also cause ectropion.
  • Transient (short-lived) ectropion: In some cases, your Lab may experience transient (short-lived) ectropion often caused by factors such as fatigue, hunger, thirst, or sickness. Transient ectropion mainly goes away on its own.

When droopy eyes are caused by other factors besides inheritance, both the upper and lower eyelids can be affected, unlike inborn ectropion, which only affects the lower lid.

labrador-droopy-eye

Signs of Droopy Eyes in Labradors

Droopy eyes affect Labs of any age and may appear in one or both eyes. 

This condition is highly noticeable through symptoms such as:

  • Small or constricted pupil in one or both eyes
  • Inflammation and redness of the conjunctiva
  • Droopy eyelid
  • Excessive tearing
  • Browning or staining of the fur below the eyes due to frequent tearing
  • General eye redness
  • Recurring eye infections
  • Think mucoid discharge collecting on the lower eyelid
  • Your Lab trying to paw or rub the affected eye or both eyes

Problems Associated With Droopy Eyes

Generally, normal eyelids shield the eyes from dirt and other external materials, keep the eyes lubricated and clean, and protect them from injuries and trauma.

So, if the eyelids are droopy, the eyes get exposed to external threats and are at a high risk of drying.

Droopy eyes can cause conjunctivitis, keratitis, and other ocular problems.

Diagnosis for Droopy Eyes in Labradors

If you notice any of the above symptoms in your favorite Lab, you should immediately see a pet veterinary ophthalmologist. This will help rule out any serious underlying medical conditions and start any recommended treatment as soon as possible.

Droopy eyes diagnosis is simple. In most cases, the vet will conduct a physical visual examination of your pup's eyes. And if the eyelids appear saggy, exposing the conjunctiva, it's a positive test for droopy eyes.

Hereditary ectropion can be easily pointed out in small puppies. On the other hand, some cases of acquired ectropion may require an advanced diagnosis for effective clarification.

With the advanced diagnosis, blood or urine tests may be conducted to determine an underlying cause of the droopy eyes. Besides, a corneal staining test can be performed if there's a suspected case of corneal ulceration.

And if a neuromuscular disease is suspected to be linked to ectropion, muscular or nerve biopsies may be conducted.

A vet may conduct a series of tests to determine the underlying cause of droopy eyes to develop a good treatment plan.

labrador-grabbing-stick

How Droopy Eyes in Labs Are Treated

Treatment for droopy eyes depends on the severity of the condition.

Mild ectropion may not require advanced treatment. Most mild conditions, especially the transient cases, often go away on their own after some time.

If your pup has overly dry eyes, the vet may prescribe some ointments or eye drops to keep the eyes lubricated. Additionally, your vet may advise you to give your Lab some antibiotics to combat corneal ulcers.

However, severe cases that cause serious ocular problems may necessitate reconstructive eyelid surgery.

Surgical Treatment for Droopy Eyes

Eyelid surgery treatment aims at restoring the normal contour of the eyelid to reduce ocular problems associated with the condition.

A general pet vet can handle the surgery, but it may be necessary for a qualified vet ophthalmologist to conduct the surgery for complicated cases.

After the surgery, your Lab wears an Elizabethan collar, or more commonly referred to as a "cone" around it's neck for around 7-10 days. It will also take some ophthalmic pain meds to relieve any pain.

Since a good number of Labradors have droopy eyes, you may feel that by reconstructive eyelid surgery, your pup will lose his aesthetic value. In such a case, if possible, you may ask the vet to leave a mild ectropion to maintain the aesthetic look linked to the breed.

How To Prevent Droopy Eyes in Labradors

You don't like seeing your Lab uncomfortable and with painful eyes, right? There are tips for controlling droopy eyes you can try.

Stop Breeding Droopy Eyed Labs

First off, if the condition is hereditary, it's likely to keep on being passed from one generation of Labs to the other. And the best way to address this is to stop breeding the culprits.

So, if you happen to own a Lab with Droopy eyes, keep it off your breeding list to prevent raising an ectropion Lab breed.

Watch for Injuries and Make Regular Vet Visits

It is possible to curb the issue when it stems from traumas or physical injuries by keeping a close eye on your Lab or leashing him.

It's also advisable to establish a regular eye check-up routine for your Lab. With regular eye check-ups, your vet can easily diagnose a case of droopy eyes before it becomes severe.

Prognosis of Droopy Eyes

Most cases of droopy eyes are often mild and highly responsive to simple medical care. Most Labs can generally tolerate such cases.

And although some severe cases may require reconstructive eyelid surgery, the process is relatively simple with a short recovery span. 

However, complicated cases may be delicate, requiring intervention from experienced ophthalmologist surgeons.

Bottom Line

Don't be overwhelmed if you notice that your favorite Lab has droopy eyes. Most Labs are victims of this condition, which can be genetically transmitted from one generation to another.

However, even if your Lab acquires droopy eyes from other factors such as traumas and nerve infections, you need not worry much. This is because most cases are mild, and Labs generally have good control over them.

However, as discussed above, you should keep a close eye on your pup and immediately consult a vet if you notice any symptoms linked to ectropion.

About THE AUTHOR

Mark Brunson

Mark Brunson

Mark is the founder of Everything Labradors and a husband and father of 3. He enjoys spending time with his family, including his dog Molly, a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. He’s a big fan of the outdoors and loves to travel to new places.

Read more about Mark Brunson