Meet Meggzie, whose somewhat windswept, rugged and handsome good looks are actually a sign that something is wrong, because Meggzie has a condition called “entropion” which causes a rolling of the eyelid and can be really, really irritating, just like it was for this stoic guy!
While much rarer in cats than dogs, Entropion is caused when tension on the ligaments around the eyelid causes the lid to roll inwards, which causes the eyelashes on the outside of the lid to begin rubbing against the surface of the eye. It’s not life threatening in any way, but it causes massive irritation and it must be really uncomfortable.
Entropion can either be inherited genetically or develop later in life.
Some brachiocephalic cat breeds, like Persians, Himalayan and Burmese are more susceptible to this genetic trait because the shape of their face acts to put more tension on the ligaments associated with the eye and eyelids.
But when entropion develops later in a cats’ life it usually signifies a change in the condition of the eye that can be linked to an underlying health condition. Things like conjunctivitis or corneal ulcers are leading causes of later in life entropion development.
The signs that entropion is developing include squinting, rubbing eyes, an irritated, red, or cloudy eye, or in extreme cases, watery or mucky discharge from the affected eye.
But are cats with this condition destined to suffer and itch their way through life. Well no, entropion is actually quite treatable, but it does require some delicate work by a skilled surgeon.
To treat entropion surgically, we need to tighten the eyelid. An incision is made in the lid and a small portion of tissue is removed, this pulls the skin and muscles of the eyelid backwards, pulling the “rolled” section back out to a normal position and stopping the lashes from rubbing on the surface of the eye - a bit like plastic surgery where the intention is to make the eyelid shorter and tighter
But surgeons must be incredibly careful to make sure they take only the right amount of tissue. Take too little and the lashes will still be exposed to and irritating the eyeball, and so the problem will persist. Taking too much can cause the eyelid to “roll” the other way, which could prevent the eye from closing properly at all, which creates a whole new set of issues for the patient.
But for Dr Michelle, this fine line she must tread between under-correction and over-correction comes with the territory.
“Essentially, that’s the way surgery works,” says Dr Michelle, “every operation is an individual one and every decision we make during an operation will have consequences for the patient”.
“Our job as surgeons is to bring all our knowledge, experience and skill to bear to take the right actions at the right moment”.
With a surgical team behind her (and a few interested vets and vet students looking on) Dr Michelle set to work.
All operations that require full anaesthetic carry some risk, so keeping the surgery as short as possible was Dr Michelle’s first consideration. She had done her best to get a good view of the eye beforehand, but it was only when the patient was completely anaesthetised that she could get a clear view of the surgical site.
Next, she needed to decide just how much tissue to remove to ensure the eyelid would sit correctly on the surface of eyeball.
A cat’s eyelid is roughly the same size as a 10c piece, if not quite as thick – a really small area to work with as it is – and Dr Michelle’s job was to remove a tiny piece of this – not too big, not too small.
After examining the surgical site and considering her options Dr Michelle began her work with surgical precision – literally!
In around 30 minutes of surgery Dr Michelle removed the tiny sliver of tissue and delicately stitched the eyelid back together, ensuring that Meggzie would feel the relief of waking up without an eyelash stuck against his eyeball for the first time in months.
We’re glad to report that post-operation Meggzie recovered well and showed excellent progress at his follow up appointment the next week. The operation was a success, and all thanks to the knowledge, experience, and skills of Dr Michelle!
We're lucky to have such professional and capable vets who can carry out these complicated surgeries.
If you’re concerned that your pet has been showing the signs of entropion – rubbing their eye, having a red, cloudy or irritated eye or even discharge from a sore looking eye – book in to see us today and one of our experienced staff will advise you of the best course of action to relieve your pet’s discomfort.