Do Dogs Have Multiple Sets of Eyelids?

husky eyes

A lot of people find themselves confused with a dog’s eyelids. Sometimes, they feel as if they’ve seen another eyelid that was never there!

Well, in this article, I am going to troubleshoot all your doubts regarding the eyelids of dogs and answering the ultimate dog eyelids question: do dogs have multiple sets of eyelids? And also, the penultimate question: if yes, then why do they have multiple eyelids?

Both are very legit questions and without further ado, let’s get down to it.

Dog eyelids: why are they different or special?

A dog’s eyelids are multi-layered and for their own good.

Dogs will be around the dirt for a large part of their life. Their eyes need added protection as they’re very sensitive. For that reason, there are two eyelids in a dog’s eyes and then a third, hidden one.

Many conditions are linked with the third set of eyelids in dogs. Some such conditions are merely a reason for unsightliness while others can be serious health concerns that require professional medical help.

The structure of the canine eyes is different than those of humans. However, they still need the same care. For example, keeping a dog’s eyes naturally healthy is not very different than what you’d do to keep your own eyes healthy. Prevention of eyelid related problems can usually be done with simple cleanliness and care. 

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Dogs are primarily a nocturnal species, unlike humans. We, humans, are a diurnal species but the dog’s evolution has been different. They are programmed to be predators in the dusk and dawn, not to mention nights. This allows the dogs to see really well in the dark but lack in color perception, visual keenness, as well as the perception of depth over large distances.

puppy eyes

Do dogs have multiple sets of eyelids?

Yes! Dogs have multiple sets of eyelids. In fact, they have three sets. The upper and lower eyelids are perfectly visible but the third one isn’t always there. 

The third set of eyelids of a dog only appears when there’s something wrong with the eyes. This third set is a reddish-pink membrane that starts to cover the eyes when there’s a problem in the eyes.

The third eyelid of a dog used to be called the “nictitating membrane”. Although it’s a basic layer of protection, it’s a very unique feature with dogs.

The first two eyelids are simply upper and lower eyelids. When the hairs on these eyelids start to protrude towards the eyeball, then irritation and scratching will follow. The reasons could be many. Sometimes, there are wounds that have scarred the eyelids, making the hairs to project inwards instead of outwards. Sometimes, the reason is purely genetic. Yet other times, the muscles around the eyeballs have a defect or injury that can lead to severe eyelid problems.

All in all, the third eyelid plays an integral role in keeping the dog’s eye irritation- and disease-free. To keep your canine companion healthy, you should always pay attention to the appearance of the third eyelids.

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What is the job of the third eyelid in a dog?

As mentioned above, the third eyelid is a form of eye protection. However, it’s no simple protective membrane.

This membrane keeps the dog’s eyes clean. It contains tear-production glands that help provide the much-needed lubrication to a dog’s eyes. It only starts to appear when there’s some sort of problem with the eyes.

So, if the third eyelid appears, make sure you get your dog’s eyes checked-up by a vet. You can also carefully examine the dog’s eyes yourself and if there’s something less worrisome behind the appearance of the third eyelid like something foreign in the eyes – then you can manually remove it without the professional help of a vet. Keep your fingers clean before you attempt to remove something from the dog’s eyes, however.

The third eyelid typically shows up during some infection or eye trauma. It’s also usual for it to appear when the dog is fighting some sort of illness elsewhere in the body, so a vet check-up is highly recommended. It is the most pronounced sign that the dog needs professional help.

dachshund eyes

Don’t mistake haws for problems

There are some dogs that have a permanent third eyelid. It’s a simple small pink area in the eye’s corner.

Called haws, these portions are harmless.

Haws are most likely to be considered a confirmation flaw (unlike that in horses) in the dog show rings.

But cherry eyes are always a cause for concern

Unlike haws, cherry eyes are a huge concern.

This condition occurs when the third eyelid pops out. It’s called cherry eye because this pop out closely resembles a cherry. This happens in the inside corner of the eye.

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Cherry eye causes the tear glands to not function properly. This leads to a lack of lubrication in the dog’s eyes. This prolapsed gland can result in dry eyes, which is a serious concern with dogs.

Besides being painful and irritating for the dog, cherry eye can also make your dog lose vision. If you happen to notice it in your dog’s eye, then they’re due for a visit to the vet.

Caring for a dog’s eye is very important

So, hopefully, you’ve learned all about your canine companion’s eyelids.

You should know that it’s very important to take proper care of the eyes of your dog. Even though dogs rely far less on their vision than we do (and much more on their other senses like smell and hearing) and the fact that pirate dogs with an eyepatch are the scourge of the Caribbean along with looking cool, the eye is still very vital.