Causes and Treatment of Canine Eye Tumors

" Most canine eye tumors or ocular tumors are benign, which means that they are not cancerous or dangerous to the health of your dog. Benign tumors can be left alone if they are not causing any discomfort or interfering with eye function. Malignant or cancerous tumors can originate in the eye or spread from neoplasms (growths) in other areas of the body. Diagnosis is made after examining a small tumor sample under a microscope. Tumors behind the eye or malignant tumors (cancerous and fast growing) can be problematic and require surgical removal or other treatments such as laser therapy or cryotherapy (freezing)."

Canine eye tumors often appear as spots or discolorations on the eye. These are not necessarily tumors, but can be. Tumors can be in the eye, on the surface of the eye, behind the eye or on the eyelid.

Canine eyelid tumors are usually not cancerous and do not spread to other parts of the dog.  Most tumors are located on the anterior (front) of the uvea (middle part of the dog eye containing the choroid, ciliary body and iris.

dog eye anatomy
Dog Eye Anatomy
Source: Hill's Pet Nutrition, Atlas of Veterinary Clinical Anatomy

Types of Canine Eye Tumors

canine eye tumors
Canine Eye Tumors such as this one are referred to as a hemangioma of the third eyelid, a type of dog eye tumor that is usually benign or not cancerous.
Source: Washington State University

Symptoms of Canine Eye Tumors

Redness, itching or tearing of the eye can mean your dog has an eye tumor.  Changes in eye pigmentation can also indicate the presence of a primary or secondary (spread from another part of the body) dog eye tumor.

Diagnosis of Eye Tumors in Dogs

To make a diagnosis for the canine eye tumors mentioned, your veterinarian will want to take a small sample of the tumor for testing in a lab.  The dog should undergo a complete physical examination.

If the tumor is inside the eye a veterinarian has a special scope (opthalmoscope) that can look into a dilated eye (done with drops). If the tumor is behind the eye, there is a special tool (fine-needle aspirate) that will allow your veterinarian to take a sample (biopsy).  Other methods include ultrasound, x-rays, MRI, CT scan and blood tests.

Treatment of Canine Eye Tumors

Not every eye tumor requires treatment. If your veterinarian believes it is small, and with monitoring it is not growing, it can be left alone without treatment. Other options include removing the tumor or in more drastic cases removal of the entire eye. If your dog needs its eye removed, most dogs adapt well and heal completely.

Tumors behind the eye can be a problem. They tend to grow quickly so removal of the eye is often called for. Radiation after the eye is removed is often prescribed in case any cancer cells were not surgically removed.  Other methods for treating canine eye tumors includes laser ablation, hyperthermia, cryosurgery, chemotherapy and radiation.


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