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Dogs With Long Eyelashes: Should Cockers Have Them Trimmed?

One of the more popular trends amongst pet lovers are dogs with long eyelashes. When people began telling me my red and white Cocker Spaniel reminded them of Lady from Lady and the Tramp, I thought about letting her eyelashes grow long. First, I decided to find out if it’s safe for Cocker Spaniels to have long lashes or if they should have them trimmed.

Dogs with long eyelashes can be particularly beautiful and appear almost human-like in appearance. Although it is not generally dangerous for most dogs to have longer eyelashes, many Cockers Spaniel owners choose to trim their dog’s eyelashes so they don’t interfere with vision, catch debris, or cause irritation.

Because there are pros and cons to having a Cocker Spaniel with long eyelashes, I decided to ask Cocker parents, breeders, and experts their thoughts on the topic. Here’s what I discovered about the delicate Cocker Spaniel eye and why dogs with long eyelashes is a source of controversy.

Dog with long eyelashes
Pamela Letchworth’s Cocker Spaniel Pearlie has long eyelashes

Is It Safe For A Cocker To Have Long Eyelashes?

Dogs aren’t people, but in the case of eyelashes, consider how you, a person, would feel with super long eyelashes. Long, flowing, butterfly-style lashes are so popular that some people get eyelash extensions, use false lashes, or use products that claim to grow lashes longer. Dogs, however, are not people, so it’s not always in a Cocker Spaniel’s best interest to have long lashes.

Depending on the way the dog’s lashes grow, they may turn inward and actually irritate the eye. Cocker Spaniels are prone to eye issues as a breed in general, so longer lashes should be kept free of gunk, dirt, or any buildup. Since Cockers are a sporting breed who love to sniff out everything and anything during a walk, they may pick up debris on their lashes along the way. If you choose to keep a Cocker’s eyelashes longer, check them frequently and keep them clean and not super long.

“While there is nothing dangerous about long eyelashes on cockers, some mistake it for a very common condition called distichiasis (an extra row of lashes that grows inward causing the lashes to rub against the eye which can cause irritation or other eye problems),” long-time Cocker breeder Lisa Gaertner shared. “A simple eye exam, which should be done annually anyway, will reveal if your Cocker has this common condition.”

My first Cocker Spaniel had distichiasis, which I could not see with the naked eye. The abnormal hair growth actually started appearing on her inner lower eyelid. She began rubbing her eyes, had increased watery discharge, rubbed her face on furniture or the rug, and we noticed her eyes were extra red by the end of the day. She had the extra lashes removed since they were bothersome. As a result, we felt it was not safe for our Cocker Spaniel to have long eyelashes and cause her further issues.

The anatomy of cocker spaniel eyes

How Should I Trim Dogs With Long Eyelashes?

If you choose to trim a Cocker Spaniel’s eyelashes, ask your dog’s groomer to do so. An inexperienced hand can slip or cause major problems if you poke or even slightly irritate the delicate Cocker eye.

Dog mom Margo Lieb learned to groom her Cocker’s eyelashes at home. Though her husband prefers the lashes longer, she likes to trim them occasionally. “The hair between her eyes grows up from her snout towards the corners of her eyes. I do NOT use scissors. Way too easy to do damage this way! I use bikini razor believe it or not,” she shared.

The way I trim my dog’s eyelashes is with grooming clippers. I run the clippers ever so slightly backwards near the “eyebrow” or “points” areas and the lashes easily come off. You can also use blunt tip scissors and slowly trim the eyelashes from the outside corner of one eye. If your dog is not fond of having his face touched or you feel uncomfortable doing this, allow a trained dog groomer to perform the task instead.

You can learn more about grooming a Cocker Spaniel at home by reading my post on the topic.

dog with long eyelashes
Margo Lieb’s Cocker Tikka has lovely long lashes

Can Long Eyelashes Cause My Cocker To Have Eye Problems?

There is a common misconception that long eyelashes can cause a condition called distichiasis, which we discussed above. However, having long eyelashes can lead to eye issues for some Cocker Spaniels and dogs in general.

Eyes of melted chocolate: This is the way many describe the Cocker Spaniel eye. Those gorgeous eyes also come with their fair share of difficulties. If lashes become too long, they can irritate the dog’s eye. Dogs have been known to paw or scratch at their eyes and cause problems including a scratched cornea, infection, or irritating the third gland and thus popping it out. The latter condition is called cherry eye.

In distichiasis, due to the direction the eyelashes grow, they may touch the eyeball surface. The harshness of hair rubbing against the eye means dogs can suffer from any number of conditions including ulcers, abrasions, inflammation, and eye tissue infection. Personally, I would not allow a Cocker with this condition to also have long eyelashes.

Cocker Spaniel owners should find a good canine ophthalmologist at some point in their dog’s life because of the breed’s propensity toward eye issues. or dogs like Cockers who have a history of known eye issues as a breed, seeing a veterinary ophthalmologist for a baseline examination can be helpful.

Some breeds tend to have longer lashes which includes the Cocker Spaniel. Unless the lashes are directly touching the eye or causing the dog to scratch or paw at his eyes, a diligent owner will be aware if there are any issues from eyelash length.

trim my dog's eyelashes

What Do Cocker Spaniel Owners Think About Long Lashes?

You aren’t a bad person if you choose to keep your Cocker’s eyelashes longer. Talking about dog eyelash length is a hotly contested topic, so we asked a variety of Cocker Spaniel owners their thoughts on the topic. Here’s what they shared.

Pamela Letchworth: I cut Pearlie’s eyelashes once a month. Otherwise, they would get into her mouth. I’ve never known a dog’s lashes to grow as fast and long as hers.

Amy McCauley: The super long ones are inclined to catch debris which can then be flickering in the eye all the time. They also can tickle them a lot and cause them to rub. If you keep an eye on them it can be okay but it is best to have them short.

Judy McManus: My Chester had lovely long lashes. I complained to the ophthalmologist (a Cocker friend) that his breeder wanted me to cut them. He commented, “He could see better if you did”.

Linda Siemiesz-Barnett: My fur-baby Barkley had beautiful long lashes. I always had to remind the groomers to leave them alone. He was 16 when he passed and never had any issues with his lashes.

Kim Kiernan: Poppy had distichiasis, which is very common in Cockers. She had the follicles frozen at a year old to stop the constant irritation (lots of tear staining).

Lisa Gaertner: I prefer to keep them trimmed as I feel it opens up their eyes more, shows their proper shape, and has a cleaner appearance.

Iris Steinberg: In more than 40 years none of my Cockers had any eye irritation.

Cathy Runninger: I prefer the eyelashes to be trimmed. Although it is cute, long lashes do present some problems. Bacteria, dirt, and gunk can be trapped, causing many problems. Like keeping the ears clean around the canal, keeping the eyes clean is healthy.

Carol Bryant (me): Personally, I prefer a Cocker’s eyelashes to be trimmed short. The breed has such a high propensity to eye issues from glaucoma to progressive retinal atrophy, cherry eye, and more, so I keep them trimmed short. Cockers are a beautiful breed inside and out, but I prefer eyelashes trimmed.

should i trim my dog's eyelashes
A Cocker Spaniel with trimmed eyelashes

Where Can I Get More Information About Cocker Spaniel Eyes?

I wrote an extensive piece about Cocker Spaniel eye problems and keeping them healthy, so be sure to check that out.

Research is being done to identify the gene and mutation responsible for inherited cataracts in Cocker Spaniels, and subsequently, to develop a genetic test that can identify genetically normal, affected, and carrier dogs. Imagine what this can mean for millions of dogs everywhere, beyond Cocker Spaniels: Inherited cataracts being researched and wiped out.

The American Spaniel Club Foundation (ASC-F), of which I am a member, is helping research for Cocker inherited cataracts. ACS-F requests that anyone interested in donating to help the inherited cataract study please donate by visiting https://www.asc-f.org/.

I run a Facebook group called Club Cocker: Wigglebutts Worldwide where we discuss topics like Cocker Spaniel eyes and whether or not long eyelashes are best for dogs. Stop by and join the club!

Finally, be sure to subscribe to our email list. We send no more than two newsletters per month with exclusive news and content for subscribers.

Talk Back About Dog Eyelashes

Has your dog ever been affected by eye issues? Do you prefer your dog’s eyelashes short or long? Bark back at us in the comments below.

A dog lover of the highest order is how Gayle King introduced Carol Bryant, when she appeared with her Cocker Spaniel on Oprah Radio’s Gayle King show to dish dogs. Carol created and owns the trademark, My Heart Beats Dog® and lives that mantra. A 30-year veteran of the dog world, she is President of the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) and the 2020 DWAA winner for Best Dog Blog.

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