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Is Your Pet Giving You The Hairy Eyeball?

Most of us are familiar with the saying about giving someone the hairy eyeball which is a euphemism for giving someone the stank eye; however, did you know that real hairy eyeballs exist? Both dogs and cats, as well as other animal species including humans, can develop ocular dermoids. Dermoid is the term given to the noncancerous formation of normal skin in an abnormal place. When it occurs on the eye, which may include on the typically clear cornea, the white or pink conjunctiva of the eye or eyelid, or on the third eyelid, these structures literally are replaced by complete full thickness haired skin, glands and all! It can even occur as an inclusion cyst within the eye itself. Regardless, it can look very strange or like something out of a sci-fi movie. Fortunately, these are benign lesions that develop in utero or shortly thereafter due to embryological abnormalities.

Ocular dermoids, although benign, can cause serious ocular damage due to irritation, inflammation, and abrasions of/along normal structures. For instance, the hairs can damage the cornea and conjunctiva from constant rubbing every time the patient blinks or the wind blows. This damage can create inflammation and even scarring that could lead to infections, edema, and/or permanent damage.

(Picture provided by Dr. Patricia Mundy, a board certified ophthalmologist. Learn more about her here -

The treatment of choice for this condition is surgery to completely remove the dermoid. Surgery should be curative unless the dermoid is incompletely excised in which case it can grow back. It is recommended that a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist perform the surgery to minimize the damage to nearby structures, to ensure that the abnormal tissue is completely removed, and to ensure that any tissue grafts needed are performed properly. Post-operative medical management as well as the prevention of further damage to the eye during the healing process are very important as well. If you are going to spend money to have a dermoid removed, please do not skimp on the after care - protect your investment!

Dermoids are rare, however, when performing large numbers of ultrasounds on diverse patients, you are bound to come across interesting comorbidities. Being a board certified veterinarian providing ultrasound services, I have the unique ability to interpret and diagnose conditions and disease states, and this can extend beyond what is seen on my ultrasound screen.

A special thanks to Dr. Patricia Mundy for reviewing this blog for correctness/completeness and for providing one of the images posted.

You can find her in Lancaster, PA at PETS.

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This was a very informative article for me because my dog has sometimes red eye(es). So explaining what’s hairy Eve is brought clarity for me.

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