Meibomian gland tumours are tiny, slow-growing tumours that form in the meibomian glands of the eyelids. (Meibomian glands are sebaceous glands that provide an oily secretion to stabilize the tear film over the cornea.) Common in older dogs, meibomian gland tumours are usually benign, but a small percentage of them are carcinomas that can metastasize into lymph nodes.
Meibomian gland tumours can protrude outward or can extend into the eyelid. Some of these tumours will become ulcerated. Some will cause keratoconjunctivitis (an inflammation of the cornea and conjunctiva). Benign tumours generally do not spread, but they can become inflamed, irritated, and painful. If the tumour becomes large enough, it can cause problems during blinking (resulting in extra tearing and tear staining). Most meibomian gland tumours grow slowly. A veterinarian can detect them easily because of where the tumours are located.
Treating the Tumour with Surgery and Cryosurgery
Many of these tumours can be completely removed with surgery. If the tumour isn’t completely removed, it may continue to grow. In many cases, only a mild sedative and local anaesthesia will be necessary. The larger the lesion, the more likely that general anaesthesia will be required. Cryosurgery (tissue freezing) may also be used to ablate (remove) the tumour.
After the tumour is removed, you may see a bit of blood in the dog’s tears for a couple of days. The surgical site will be swollen for a week or so. Within two weeks, the surgery site will probably turn pink, and the hairs around the site may become white. Generally speaking, the skin will become repigmented within a few months, but the white hair will remain permanently.
Less than 10 percent of these eyelid tumours recur. If they do come back, they will usually be seen within six months or so. Check the eyelids often to find new and recurring tumours.