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Eyelid Surgery in Dogs for Tumor Removal: Is It Necessary?

As pet owners, ensuring the health and well-being of our furry friends is a top priority. One concern that may arise is the presence of tumors on a dog's eyelids. In this blog post, our vets discuss the necessity of eyelid surgery for tumor removal, the different types of tumors, and the potential benefits and risks essential for making informed decisions about your dog's health.

What types of eyelid tumors affect the eyelids?

A dog's eyelid is an extension of its skin. Therefore, the types of tumors that can develop in the skin can also develop in the eyelid.

Eyelid tumors in dogs are usually benign (non-cancerous). Benign eyelid tumors are common in middle-aged and older dogs. There are a few different types of eyelid tumors in dogs with its own characteristics and implications, including:

Meibomian Gland Adenomas

It's possible for these cells to over-multiply and develop into benign tumors called meibomian gland adenomas (non-cancerous), the most common eyelid tumor diagnosed in older dogs. There are also meibomian gland adenocarcinomas, a less common malignant (cancerous) tumor. 

Meibomian gland adenomas may initially start as a small, smooth mass that emerges from the opening of a meibomian gland. However, over time, the tumor may develop into a large mass with an irregular surface to cause discomfort or interfere with vision.


Viral papillomas (those caused by the papilloma virus) tend to appear in young dogs. These growths look like warts and tend to have a cobblestone appearance. They may be pink, white, or pigmented. 

Dogs may have more than one papilloma at once, and they may develop around the eyes and in the mouth at the same time. Papillomas will sometimes (not always) disappear on their own. 

While usually harmless, they can sometimes cause irritation or secondary infections.


Melanocytes are cells located at the edges of the eyelids, responsible for producing pigment. However, they can also multiply excessively and lead to the formation of melanoma tumors. When melanomas occur at the edge of the eyelid, they typically appear as flat, brown-to-black masses that grow outward.

Alternatively, melanomas can develop on the haired skin of the eyelid, presenting as a single, round, darkly pigmented mass on the eyelid itself. Some of these melanomas remain localized, while others may spread to other parts of the body.

Squamous Cell Carcinomas 

This type of tumor is caused by the over-multiplication of skin cells (squamous) and is rare in dogs. These malignant skin cell tumors often have an ulcerated appearance and are more commonly found on areas of the eyelid that lack pigment. 

Lymphomas or Mast Cell Tumors

Lymphoid tissue cells in the conjunctiva can multiply excessively and lead to lymphomas or malignant mast cell tumors. These tumors originate from mast cells, which are immune system cells that usually play a role in allergic reactions.

Mast cell tumors can be difficult to detect and may or may not have pigment. They can grow quickly and spread (metastasize), making them harder to treat.


Another eyelid tumor that tends to impact young dogs is histiocytoma. These tumors of Langerhans cells (immune system cells in the skin) tend to develop quickly. They are benign and often look like red, hairless, round buttons. 

While a histiocytoma may develop anywhere on a dog's body, they are more common on the head, face, and front end. 

While other types of tumors can affect the eyelids, conjunctiva, and periocular tissues, these are the most commonly diagnosed tumors.

Hemangiomas and Hemangiosarcomas

Hemangiomas are benign tumors of blood vessels, whereas hemangiosarcomas are their malignant counterparts. The latter requires prompt and aggressive treatment due to its rapid spread.

What are the symptoms of eyelid tumors in dogs?

The appearance of the tumor is sometimes the first symptom you'll see. However, a dog may also display eye-related symptoms that cause you to look closer at the eyelid and discover the mass. 

Common Symptoms of Eyelid Tumors in Dogs include:

  • Visible growths
  • Redness in the eye
  • Excessive or colored discharge from the eye
  • Bleeding from the mass
  • Squinting or holding the eye closed (i.e., blepharospasm)
  • Swelling in the eye
  • Signs of ulceration
  • Rubbing the face 
  • Eyelid pigmentation and/or cloudiness in the eye
  • Distorted eyelid margin
  • Tearing
  • Being unable to close the eyelids fully 

These symptoms might be related to irritation caused by the mass. It's also possible that the mass or tumor in your dog's eye is incidental, and your pup may have a different underlying eye problem.

What causes eyelid tumors in dogs?

Tumors typically develop due to abnormal growth and unregulated replication of cells that make up the body's tissues. However, it's unclear why dogs develop the tumors listed above. Very few cancerous tumors are triggered by a single cause. 

Various factors can cause dog eyelid tumors, such as environmental, genetic, age, or hereditary risk factors that may contribute to the development of these tumors. 

Understanding these causes can aid in preventing and detecting eyelid tumors in dogs. Regular veterinary check-ups and monitoring for any changes in your dog's eyes or eyelids are essential for maintaining their health and well-being.

If you notice any growths or abnormalities, consult with a veterinary surgeon promptly to determine the best course of action.

What should I do about my dog's eyelid mass or tumor?

Consult your veterinary ophthalmologist if you've noticed any of the symptoms listed above in your dog.

Even benign masses on the eyelid can distort the eye and be very painful. They can cause obvious discomfort and lead to significant issues, such as scarring or infection if a dog keeps scratching at them and obstructing the tear ducts that produce tears. This may cause your pet discomfort and eventually lead to vision impairment.

How are eyelid tumors in dogs diagnosed?

Our veterinary ophthalmologists in Hattiesburg can offer comprehensive and compassionate eye care for your dog, including:

  • Conduct a thorough exam of your dog. This exam will include vision testing, slit lamp examination (biomicroscopy), and indirect ophthalmoscopy.
  • Ask about your dog's health history, such as when you noticed the symptoms and/or mass, how the symptoms or mast might have changed over time, etc. 
  • Carefully examine the eyelid along with the eye itself. They may need to use fluorescein stain to evaluate eye pressures, measure the diameter of the mass, check for corneal ulceration secondary to the mass rubbing the cornea, and measure tear production in the eye.
  • Take a tissue biopsy of the tumor 
  • Test bacterial or fungal culture from the mass 
  • Take a cytology of skin scrapings around the eyelid
  • Perform any blood work that may be required to gain insight into your dog's overall health in preparation for surgery. 
  • Take X-rays of the chest to find out if the tumor has spread. 

What factors will my vet consider when planning treatment for my dog's eyelid tumor?

If your veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with an eyelid tumor, they'll likely consider these factors when planning the type and timing of your pet's treatment:

  • The number of growths
  • Size of the mass
  • Duration of the problem and how fast the tumor is growing 
  • Location of the base of the mass (i.e., eyelid margin, middle layer of the skin, or conjunctiva)
  • Your dog's ability to blink fully (to determine if lubricant is needed to protect the cornea) 
  • Your dog's age
  • Evidence of irritation around the eyelid (e.g., bleeding, ulceration of the dermis, conjunctival hyperemia, ocular discharge, corneal ulcers, corneal vascularization) 
  • Evidence of the tumor spreading to lymph nodes or elsewhere (pointing to a need to stage the neoplasia before planning surgery)

What are treatment options for eyelid tumors in dogs?

Since there are no at-home or homeopathic remedies for this condition, eyelid tumor removal surgery (or blepharoplasty - the technical term for eyelid surgery) is generally the best treatment option.

After your veterinary ophthalmologist has examined your dog's eye and eyelid tumor or mass, they will work with you to create a treatment plan. 

An effective treatment plan will address the mass and any secondary issues that have developed. 

The goal will be to have the eyelids lie flat against the eye and close completely so they'll be able to protect the eyes. 

There are limits on how much of the eyelid can be surgically removed without compromising function, so early diagnosis and treatment while the mass is small are key. 

A vet typically recommends removing any eyelid mass larger than two or three millimeters to improve the chances of completely removing the mass without jeopardizing eyelid function. 

Eyelid Tumor Removal Surgery in Dogs 

When it comes to eyelid surgeries for dogs, tumor removal procedures are relatively common. Your veterinary ophthalmologist may recommend one of these eyelid surgeries to remove your dog's tumor:

Laser Ablation Surgery - Safe and effective, laser surgery to remove the mass can reduce or eliminate pain, bleeding, and swelling. 

Wedge Resection - This surgery is used to treat a tumor that takes up less than 30% of the length of the eyelid. During the procedure, the vet will remove a small wedge of the eyelid, and the tumor itself. A special suture pattern will be used to line up the eyelid margin again and close the seam. 

Cryotherapy (Debulking) - Cryotherapy, which involves freezing the tumor to destroy abnormal cells, is often used for small, superficial tumors or when surgery is not feasible.

V-Plasty Surgery -This outpatient surgical option is recommended for larger benign and malignant growths. During a V-plasty surgery, your veterinarian will remove a small wedge of tissue where the growth is located and stitch the incision back together using sutures. 

Enucleation - Very rarely, enucleation may be recommended for cancerous eye tumors. This surgical procedure involves removing one or both eyes in dogs, depending on the eyelid tumor.

How much will my dog's eyelid tumor removal surgery cost?

Several factors contribute to the cost of eyelid tumor removal surgery for a dog. These include diagnostic tests, pre-and post-operative evaluations, medications, anesthesia, and more. Your veterinary ophthalmologist at The Pet Hospital (Parkway) can provide an accurate cost estimate for your dog's procedure.

What will my dog's prognosis be after surgery to remove the eyelid tumor?

After a dog's eyelid tumor is surgically removed, the prognosis is usually positive, and the risk of recurrence is relatively low. If the tumor returns, it typically happens within six months. It's important to check the area during this period regularly and schedule follow-up visits with your veterinary ophthalmologist and veterinarian.

Your Dog's Recovery From Eyelid Tumor Removal Surgery 

Post-operative care at home will be important to help your dog recover. If your dog rips sutures out or the area becomes irritated, this can delay healing or cause the eyelid to become permanently disfigured. 

Your veterinary ophthalmologist may provide specific post-op instructions, including:

  • Cleaning the surgical site with a warm washcloth daily to remove any debris
  • Applying lubricating or antibiotic ointment to the affected eye on a daily basis
  • Administering medications to control pain and inflammation
  • Using an Elizabethan collar to protect the area and prevent your dog from rubbing or scratching the surgical site
  • Keeping your dog from doing too much physical activity or playfighting with other pets

Your veterinary ophthalmologist will probably recommend an Elizabethan collar to protect the area. They might also suggest using lubricating agents to keep the area moist. Some dogs may require radiation or chemotherapy for malignant tumors.

Note: The Pet Hospital (Parkway) specializes in treating eye conditions and illnesses. The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical or behavioral advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

Do you suspect your dog may have an eyelid tumor? Contact our Hattiesburg vets to book a consultation with our veterinary ophthalmologist.

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The Pet Hospital (Parkway) is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of companion animals in Hattiesburg and Petal. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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