Maybe you were giving your dog’s dignified grey muzzle a smooch, when you noticed what seems to be an eye booger stuck to their upper eyelid. However, when you tried to wipe it off, you realized it was actually a little fleshy bump. Or, perhaps your beautiful white kitty was giving you some head boops, when you noticed a little ulcer near the corner of their eye. What do these pets have in common? An eyelid tumor. 

Dog eyelid tumor types

Eyelid tumors are more common in older animals, but can be seen in pets of any age, and range from a cosmetic blemish to a serious life-altering cancer. Some common types of eyelid tumors in dogs include:

  • Meibomian gland tumors — Meibomian gland adenomas (i.e., benign tumors) and adenocarcinomas (i.e., malignant tumors) comprise approximately 60 percent of the eyelid tumors seen in older dogs. These pink to pigmented lobulated masses arise from the meibomian glands that line the eyelid margins, and may become ulcerated and bleed as they become larger.
  • Melanomas — These tumors originate from the pigment-producing melanocytes, and exist as a single, smooth, pigmented mass found on the eyelid skin, or as a broad, flat, pigmented mass that involves the eyelid margin.
  • Papillomas — These bumpy white, pink, or pigmented masses, caused by a virus, are more common in younger dogs. They may resolve on their own with no treatment.
  • Chalazion — This nodular eyelid swelling occurs when secretions build up in the meibomian glands, causing chronic inflammation. The process itself is not neoplastic (i.e., cancerous), but chalazions sometimes occur when a meibomian gland tumor blocks glandular secretion outflow.

Cat eyelid tumor types

Cats are more likely than dogs to have malignant or aggressive eyelid tumors, such as:

  • Squamous cell carcinomas — These malignant tumors may involve the eyelids, conjunctiva, and third eyelid (i.e., the wedge-shaped tissue at the inner corner of the eye), and can vary in appearance from a thick, non-healing ulcer, to a rough, pink, irregularly shaped mass. Squamous cell carcinomas are more common in older white cats with non-pigmented eyelids, and carry an overall poor long-term prognosis.
  • Other tumors — Less common cat eyelid tumors include fibrosarcomas, neurofibrosarcomas, basal cell carcinomas, adenocarcinomas, and mast cell tumors, most of which also carry a poor long-term prognosis.

Diagnosis of pet eyelid tumors

Veterinary Vision Center’s Dr. Pierce may be able to make an educated guess based on appearance, but the only way to definitively identify tumor type is to microscopically examine some of the tumor cells. He may choose to sample a portion of the tumor using an aspirate or biopsy, or he may submit the entire tumor for histopathology after removal. If the tumor is malignant, he may recommend an abdominal ultrasound, chest X-ray, or aspirates of surrounding lymph nodes, to determine if the tumor has spread to other body locations. 

Complications associated with pet eyelid tumors

Some benign tumors may not cause your pet any problems, but others may rub against your pet’s cornea and create a painful corneal ulcer, or leave a  corneal scar that obscures a portion of their vision. The presence of the mass may also lead to conjunctivitis (i.e., irritation of the mucous membranes lining the eye and eyelid) or self-trauma, if your pet scratches or rubs at the mass. Malignant masses also may spread locally, or to other body areas. If you notice an eyelid mass on your pet, schedule an appointment with Dr. Pierce, so he can advise you on the correct course of action.

Pet eyelid tumor treatment

Eyelid tumors can be treated a variety of ways, depending on the tumor type, size, and extent. A small, superficial, or benign tumor can possibly be debulked, and treated with cryotherapy using local anesthetic and sedation, while a malignant, full thickness, or large tumor may require general anesthesia and removal of a portion of the eyelid. Our goal is to find the technique that best maintains your pet’s eyelid function, while addressing the tumor. Should your pet’s malignant eyelid tumor need adjunctive therapy, Veterinary Vision Center’s convenient location in University Veterinary Hospital (UVH) allows Dr. Pierce to collaborate with their oncology department

Whether your pet has an eye-booger turned eyelid tumor, or a suspicious eyelid sore, don’t hesitate to contact Veterinary Vision Center. We are here to put your mind at ease, and offer your pet the best possible treatment for their eyelid tumors.