If you find a new lump or bump on your dog, it can be concerning, and it’s one of the most common reasons that pet parents bring their dog to the vet. But if the lump is around your dog’s eyes or eyelids, you may feel especially worried about how it could affect their eyes or vision. The good news is that most eyelid masses are benign. However, they can still cause issues for your pup and should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Here’s what you should know.
Types of bumps and lumps often found near a dog’s eyes
Lumps and bumps can arise anywhere on a dog’s body, including in or around the eyes. While luckily the majority (approximately 95% according to the Animal Eye Institute) of eyelid masses are benign, they can still cause irritation, corneal damage, and other issues for your dog, and should be addressed by your vet. Here are some of the most common conditions that can cause a lump or bump around your dog’s eye.
1. Cherry Eye
Cherry eye is a prolapse (popping out) of the gland of the third eyelid. It appears as a bulbous red mass at the inner corner of the eye closest to the nose. This condition is most common in brachycephalic breeds (those with short flat faces) such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, and Shih Tzus, due to their shallow eye sockets. One or both eyes may be affected. The condition can also vary in severity from a large red mass that is consistently present to a smaller mass that comes and goes as the gland pops in and out of place.
While this condition is benign and highly treatable, it can affect your dog’s tear production and lead to irritation of the eye. Surgery is required to put the gland back in place and suture it there. If the gland is simply removed, tear production will be impaired and can lead to the development of dry eye, which is a condition that requires lifelong medication. Dry eye can also result if this condition is left untreated. Prognosis is usually very good. However approximately 5-25% of dogs will have a re-prolapse after surgery, requiring an additional procedure. Dogs with cherry eye in one eye may also be predisposed to developing the condition in their other eye in the future.
According to veterinary financing company CareCredit, the average cost of cherry eye surgery may range from $300-$800.
2. Eyelid tumors
2-a eyelid tumors: meibomian gland tumors
Many eyelid tumors are overgrowth of the meibomian gland, as shown in the example below.
The most common types of eyelid tumors are adenomas (which are benign), and adenocarcinomas (which are malignant). These tumors arise from the meibomian glands, which line the eyelids and are critical for producing the oily portion of tears. Benign tumors are the most common, and are usually seen in senior dogs. They appear as slow-growing bumps on the inside or outside of the eyelid, and may be pink, pigmented, or lobulated. Larger tumors may become ulcerated, bleed, or scab, leading to pain and irritation. Small masses may simply be monitored by your vet, however if they grow large, rupture, or cause irritation then surgical removal will be recommended.
WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]
Cancerous tumors arising from the meibomian glands are also generally slow growing, but have the potential to damage nearby tissues and spread to the lymph nodes. They appear similar to the benign lesions described above.
Surgery is recommended for large or malignant tumors, and is usually curative. Traditional surgery is effective for removing small masses. If a mass is larger surgery may be more complex and involve removal and reconstruction of part of the eyelid. Laser ablation, cryotherapy (freezing of the tumor), radiation, pain medications, antibiotics, lubricating drops,
and an E-collar may also be needed in some cases. Prognosis is good, with only 10% of these masses recurring. The cost of treatment will depend greatly on the individual dog, but may start around $500.
2-b eyelid tumors: papilloma
These bumpy wart-like lesions are typically white, pink, or pigmented, and have a cauliflower-type appearance. They are benign and caused by a virus that is most common in younger dogs. Masses may also be seen in the mouth and other parts of the body. Some papillomas will regress without treatment within a few months. Other times your vet may recommend crushing or surgically removing them.
Here is another example of a picture of papilloma on a dog’s eyelid.
2-c eyelid tumors: melanoma
Arising from pigment-producing melanocytes, these masses either appear as broad and flat or smooth and raised areas on the eyelids. They can also occur in the eye itself. Surgical removal is recommended and generally curative.
Other: Other types of tumors that may affect your dog’s eyelids but are less common include histiocytoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and mast cell tumor.
3. Other types of lumps and bumps on dog’s eyes or eyelids
3-a other eye bumps: chalazion
You can see a chalazion on the picture below (small dark brown bump on the dog’s eyelid):
A chalazion is a blocked and inflamed meibomian gland, that appears as a painless, firm, yellow-grey mass on the inner or outer part of the eyelid. They are most common in senior dogs, and may be associated with other types of eyelid masses causing the gland to become blocked. They may be flushed out under local anesthesia or surgically removed.
A sty (hordeolum) is a blocked gland that has become infected and painful, and appears as a red bump on the eyelid. Treatment commonly involves warm compresses, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories.
Blepharitis, infection, or bug bites
Blepharitis, or inflammation of the eyelids, can occur due to minor bug bites, injuries, masses, infections, allergies, and more. Inflammation generally appears as a raised red swelling that may be tender to the touch. Depending on the underlying cause it may resolve over time or require veterinary treatment such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatories. Application of a warm compress for 5-15 minutes several times per day may be beneficial.
Ticks can also attach themselves to the eyelids and have a similar appearance to a mass or skin tag (with the exception of legs), and will need to be carefully removed. Sedation may be needed for this procedure depending on how wiggly your pup is, to avoid any damage to the eye.
Tumors of the eye itself
Image dog eye melanoma (figure 1 or 3):
Tumors can also occur on the surface or the internal structures of the eye such as the uvea. The most common is melanoma, which typically appears as flat or raised black/brown area(s) in the eye. Approximately 20% of uveal melanomas are malignant and have potential to spread to other parts of the body, however even benign masses can cause glaucoma (high pressures in the eye) and pain. Removal of the eye is generally the recommended treatment, however if caught early specialized surgery may be possible with an ophthalmologist.
A dermoid is a benign mass that occurs when normal tissue grows in an abnormal place. While dogs are born with this condition it may not become evident until later in life. The typical appearance is a hairy growth on the eye. As this type of mass can cause irritation, removal is typically recommended and curative.
Other types of cancer, such as lymphoma, can also affect the eyes. This can cause a visible mass, swelling, ruptured blood vessels, glaucoma, and pain. This type of cancer has potential to spread and has a poor prognosis.
What you should know about eye bumps, lumps and tumors
While the majority are benign, lumps and bumps in or around the eyes have the potential to cause several issues. Some conditions, such as cherry eye, can disrupt tear production. Other masses cause damage or irritation by rubbing against the cornea or preventing the eye from fully closing, which can result in corneal ulcers. If a mass is malignant (cancerous), it may spread to other parts of the body and affect your dog’s overall health and life expectancy.
What if my dog’s eye bump is red? Top causes
You may be concerned if you see a red bump around your dog’s eye. Several common lumps and bumps may be red or pink in color, including the following. The best way to get a diagnosis is to schedule a visit with your vet.
- Cherry eye
- Bug bite or infection
- Meibomian adenoma or adenocarcinoma
- Histiocytoma [View pictures]
- Mast cell tumors [View pictures]
Signs that your dog’s eye needs veterinary attention
It is best to have any new lump or bump that you notice on your dog evaluated by a vet, and this is especially true of masses in or around the eyes. This is because masses around the eye can affect tear production or rub on the eye leading to irritation or corneal ulcers. Additionally, if your veterinarian recommends surgical removal, it is much easier to remove a mass in this area while it is as small as possible. That being said, if you notice the following it is best to see your vet sooner rather than later.
- A mass that is increasing in size
- A raised or pigmented mass on the eye itself
- A mass that is bothering your dog (causing them to scratch or rub at it)
- Discharge from the eye(s)
- Squinting or excessive blinking
- Color change to your dog’s eye(s)
- A protruding, enlarged, or swollen eye
How a vet can help with your dog’s eye issues
Image stain uptake on corneal ulcer:
There are several tests that your vet may want to perform to further evaluate your dog’s eyelid mass and their eye itself. In many cases your vet will not be able to determine the type of mass present just by looking at it, and will need to take a sample for further evaluation.
- Fluorescein stain – This test checks for the presence of a corneal injury or ulcer. A small amount of stain is applied to the eye, which will stick to areas of ulceration and glow under black light.
- Schmear tear test – This test is used to measure tear production. It involves placing the tip of a special filter paper inside the lower eyelid and waiting for 60 seconds.
- Tonometry – This test involves gently touching the surface of the eye with a Tonopen to measure pressures within the eye. Intraocular pressure may be elevated in glaucoma or decreased in uveitis.
- Fine needle aspirate – If a mass is large enough your vet may be able to collect a small sample of cells with a needle to examine under the microscope.
- Biopsy – This involves removal of part or all of a mass and submission to a pathologist for evaluation (histopathology).
- Bloodwork, x-rays, and ultrasound – If your vet is concerned about spread of cancer they may recommend a full body workup known as staging. This can also be important if surgery is recommended, to make sure your dog is healthy enough for anesthesia.
Vet treatments and surgeries
The treatment recommended by your vet will depend on the underlying issue, which will be determined based on history, physical exam, and diagnostic testing. Some cases may resolve on their own or with medical management, however most eyelid masses will require surgical removal by your vet or referral to an ophthalmologist.
Traditional surgery is highly effective for removing small masses. If a mass is larger surgery may be more complex and involve removal and reconstruction of part of the eyelid. Laser ablation, cryotherapy, radiation, pain medications, antibiotics, lubricating drops, and an E-collar may also be needed in some cases.
Tumors arising from the eye itself, such as uveal melanoma, may require enucleation (removal of the eye), or specialized surgery with an ophthalmologist.
About surgeries to remove eye or eyelid lumps and bumps
The type, cost, and extent of surgery will vary greatly, depending on the underlying condition. Surgery can range in complexity from small mass removal under sedation and local anesthetic to removal and reconstruction of large portions of the eyelids or even removal of the eye, under general anesthesia. Your dog will be sent home with an E-collar, pain medications, anti-inflammatories, eye drops, and antibiotics if needed. Once the mass is removed it will be submitted for histopathology to definitively diagnose the type of tumor and determine if any additional follow-up treatment is necessary.
Anatomy of a dog’s eyelids
To understand the types of lumps and bumps that can affect a dog’s eyes, it is helpful to first review some basic anatomy of the dog’s eyelids. Dogs have upper eyelid and a lower eyelid to cover and protect the eye through blinking, and help spread tears to keep the eye lubricated. They also have a third eyelid known as the nictitating membrane. The third eyelid is light pink to white in color and extends from the inner corner of the eye (closest to the nose) horizontally across the eye. It is generally not visible in healthy pets.
There are multiple glands (lacrimal and meibomian) located in the eyelids that produce the components of tears, and nasolacrimal ducts which allow tears to drain.
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