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

Sometimes, our pets can inherit or develop eyelid abnormalities requiring surgical correction. In this article, our veterinary team will cover common types of eyelid issues, symptoms, cat and dog eyelid surgery procedures, and more.

Types of Tumors Affecting Dogs' Eyes

There are a number of different forms of cancers and benign tumors that can affect the various parts of your dog's eyes, including:

Meibomian Gland Adenomas

Meibomian gland adenomas are the most common type of eyelid tumor in dogs. These benign tumors arise from the meibomian glands, which are located within the eyelid and produce an oily substance that prevents the eyes from drying out.

Characteristics of meibomian gland adenomas include:

  • Slow growth
  • Non-painful
  • Often protrude from the edge of the eyelid


Melanomas can appear on the eyelids or within the eye itself. These tumors can be either benign or malignant, with malignant melanomas posing a greater risk due to their potential to spread to other parts of the body. 

Characteristics of  melanomas include:

  • Dark pigmentation
  • Irregular shape
  • Possible rapid growth

Squamous Cell Carcinomas

Squamous cell carcinomas are malignant tumors that can develop on the eyelids or the conjunctiva (the membrane covering the white part of the eye). These tumors are more aggressive and can cause significant discomfort and damage.

Characteristics of squamous cell carcinomas include:

  • Ulcerated or bleeding lesions
  • Rapid growth
  • Invasion into surrounding tissues


Lymphomas are tumors that originate in the lymphatic system and can spread to other parts of the body, including the eyes. These tumors can be particularly aggressive and require prompt treatment.

Characteristics of lymphomas include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Rapid spread to other organs
  • Potential involvement of both eyes

Mast Cell Tumors

Mast cell tumors can occur on the eyelids or conjunctiva and are typically benign, though they can occasionally be malignant. These tumors are derived from mast cells, which are part of the immune system.

Characteristics of mast cell tumors include:

  • Varying appearance, from small and nodular to larger, more ulcerated masses
  • Possible local irritation and swelling
  • Rare systemic effects if malignant

Symptoms of Eyelid Problems in Pets

Signs of eyelid problems may vary depending on several factors, including the severity of the disease. Here are common symptoms of eyelid problems in cats and dogs:

  • Squinting
  • Impaired vision 
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Redness or bloodshot eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Eyelid spasms
  • Gren or yellow discharge
  • Facial staining caused by poor tear drainage
  • Rubbing the eye due to itchiness or pain 
  • Scar tissue formation
  • Discoloration 
  • Corneal ulceration and cloudy cornea

Diagnosis of Eye Tumors in Dogs

Diagnosing eye tumors in dogs usually involves a thorough physical examination of the eye and surrounding structures and an evaluation of the dog's medical history. Your veterinarian Ophthalmology may recommend additional testing to determine the type and extent of the tumor, such as a biopsy or diagnostic imaging (ultrasound scan, X-rays, MRI, or CT scan).

Treatment Options for Eyelid Tumors in Dogs

The treatment of your dog's eye tumor will depend upon the location and nature of the tumor but may include


In some cases, particularly benign tumors, anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics may be prescribed to manage symptoms or secondary infections. However, medications alone are often not sufficient to remove the tumor.


Cryotherapy involves freezing the tumor with liquid nitrogen, which can be effective for small, superficial tumors. This treatment is less invasive than surgery and can be performed under local anesthesia.

Surgical Removal

Eyelid tumor removal in dogs through surgery is often the most effective treatment, especially for larger or malignant tumors. This procedure involves the excision of the tumor, sometimes along with a margin of healthy tissue, to ensure complete removal. Importance of

When is eyelid surgery the best course of action?

Eyelid surgery for tumor removal in dogs can be very beneficial, especially if the tumors are malignant. This can help prevent the spread of cancer and alleviate discomfort, particularly if the tumors are growing rapidly or causing vision problems. However, there are potential risks to consider. Anesthesia poses a risk, especially for older or medically compromised dogs. Additionally, post-surgical complications such as infection, bleeding, and wound healing issues can occur. Tum recurrence is also possible, and it may require further treatment.

Cost of Eyelid Tumor Removal in Dogs

The cost of removing a dog's eyelid tumor can vary widely. Factors such as the size and type of the tumor, the surgery's complexity, and the veterinary practice's location all play a role in determining the cost. It's important to talk to your veterinarian about the expected costs and to consider options for pet insurance to help manage these expenses.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is experiencing eye irritation or pain, contact our veterinary Ophthalmology in Marina del Rey for a consultation.

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