Two terms that often are used by veterinarians regarding problems with the position/shape of eyelids are entropion and ectropion. When a dog has entropion the eyelid curls inwards and the rim of the eye lid then touches the surface of the eye itself. This is very painful, damages the surface (cornea) and can when not treated even cause blindness. In most breeds we see this happen on the outside of the lower eyelids. The dog often closes the eyes because it really hurts and the cornea that is normally clear gets white or greyish. Sometimes you see even tiny blood vessels grow on the cornea to the damaged area. But as I said, this is very rare in Basset Hounds but when dogs have it it has to be treated; often surgery is needed.
Ectropion is the curling outwards of the eye lid. This can cause problems because it can give irritation of the conjunctiva, the pink surface of the inside of the eye lid. But it is certainly not such a serious problem as entropion that constantly hurts and even can cause ulcers on the eye and blindness. Eye ointment often works fine to protect the surface, I have never done surgery purely because of ectropion. Entropion surgery I do several times each month in many breeds, most of them not being breeds standing on the Kennel Club list of 'high profile breeds'.
When you read about ectropion, you might think: all Basset Hounds have ectropion. But this is certainly not true! They should always have some amount of 'haw' in my opinion as a breeder and judge, so the lower eyelid does have a small distance from the eye. This is caused by the more loose skin compared to most other breeds. This normally gives no problems but of course when it does it is too much! In old breed standards was often written that some red of the lower eye lid should be seen. But ofcourse would we like it to be pink (except when the dog has really been exercised). So 'haw' should only be called ectropion when it is so extreme that the rim of the eye lid turns outwards! Not when the eyelid stands rather normal and only has some distance from the eye!
Of course Basset Hounds do not always have healthy eyes as no breed has always. But we have to be honest that more 'open eyes' are more vulnerable to get problems. Sometimes we do see cherry eyes, a tiny gland from inside the lower eyelid 'pops up' then. And sometimes we see the hairs of an upper eyelid that hangs too low irritating the eye. And in very rare cases we do see entropion of the lower eyelid in combination with ectropion. Often the eyelids are too long compared to the eye itself then. On the inside the lower lid hangs down too much and on the outside it curls inwards and irritates the eye. Of course these faults will not only be seen by vets but also penalized by judges!
Rudy Smits, DVM