& The Tibetan Mastiff
© Susan Ochsenbein 2010
"Patience is the ability to idle your motor
when you feel like stripping your gears."
Author: Barbara Johnson
and treating abnormalities of the eyelids in Tibetan Mastiffs
There has been a good bit of discussion regarding abnormalities
of the eyelids in Tibetan Mastiffs in recent months. Much of this
discussion is a natural part of newer breeders becoming educated
to conditions that sometimes affect the puppies in their litters.
This is not a scientific article and I am writing it as informational
for owners and breeders; it is not intended to be a substitute
for good veterinary care.
The most common conditions that affect the eyelids of Tibetan
Mastiffs are entropion and ectropion. These terms refer to how
the eyelids fit over the eye. In the case of entropion, one or
both of the eyelids roll in. ectropion is a rolling out of one
or both of the eyelids, but most commonly the lower lid. It is
important to note that these conditions can involve only a portion
of the lid. These conditions are accepted as genetic, but the mode
of inheritance is undetermined. What is known is that the size
and shape of the head, the size and set of the eyes and the presence
of loose skin all contribute to these conditions.
It is not uncommon for breeders to observe some tearing in the
eyes of very young puppies. Sometimes puppies as young as three
or four weeks may seem to squint and/or tear. Many things can causes
tearing in puppies, but one possible cause would be the fit of
the eyelids. entropion can be harder to notice in young puppies
because the eyes are small. In natural light, one should be able
to see the eyelid rim on both lids with no rolling or folding in.
Most commonly entropion will be observed on the lower lid and in
the middle to outer corner of the eye. ectropion is usually easier
to determine in that the conjunctiva (red tissues surrounding the
eye) are more obvious than with an unaffected puppy. These conditions
may be anywhere from mild to acute.
Recently some Tibetan Mastiff breeders have pursued heavier heads
and heads with more loose skin in their breeding programs. These
exaggerations predispose the puppies to conditions affecting the
fit of the eyelid. All this being said it is very important for
people evaluating puppies to take into account the dramatic change
that occurs as a Tibetan Mastiff puppy develops. While many puppies
may pass through a phase where the eyelids are not a perfect fit,
most often this condition is temporary. Canine ophthalmologists
refer to the temporary conditions affecting the fit of the eyelids
as "spastic" entropion or ectropion. I cannot emphasize strongly
enough the importance of using caution in concluding that a puppy
has entropion that will require surgery.
In my experience the majority of puppies who present with ill
fitting eyelids will simply grow through the condition with little
or no intervention. Commercially available artificial tears can
help make a puppy more comfortable as its head grows into its eyelids.
It is important not to ignore a condition that could result in
harm to the puppy's eyes, so I strongly urge the use of the services
of a veterinary ophthalmologist if there is genuine concern. Using
a specialist is quite important because their experience will not
only be invaluable in determining the diagnosis but they are the
best resource for planning treatment. For puppies whose eyelids
are troubling them and for whom eye drops are not helpful, the
ophthalmologist may suggest tacking the lids. This procedure takes
just a few minutes and is done with the puppy sedated. Small stitches
are used to reposition the lids. There is no surgery and no cutting.
The stitches may remain for a few days or a few weeks, but will
need to be removed after the puppy has grown a bit. Sometimes a
puppy may need to be tacked more than once to allow it time to
grow. If the ophthalmologist determines that the puppy will require
surgery to correct the fit of the eyelids then you will want to
make sure that the puppy has matured sufficiently so that the surgery
will give the desired results.
Of course the health and happiness of the puppy is always the
first consideration. It is important to note for those people who
would like to show their Tibetan Mastiff in conformation events
that the AKC specifically disallows dogs with surgically corrected
entropion or ectropion to be entered in dog shows. The prohibition
does not apply to puppies that have been tacked, so it is important
to use restraint in pursuing a surgical remedy.
In summary, the fit of the eyelids in a Tibetan Mastiff is one
of many features that require patience. This very slow to mature
breed presents special challenges to people who are more familiar
with other breeds. Always give the puppy time to develop and seek
the advice of a specialist before planning any treatment for the
Other Helpful Articles About the Breed
TMBRN Brochure / Hand Out
Mastiff Info Brochure in PDF format
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