Eye Proptosis in Dogs

Overview of Canine Eye Proptosis

Proptosis is displacement of the eyeball out of the eye socket, so that the eyelids are trapped behind the globe. Proptosis typically occurs in dogs following trauma to the face or head.

Due to differences in facial conformation, certain breeds of dog are more prone to eye proptosis than others. In dog breeds with long noses and eyes set deep into the bony socket, such as collies, proptosis of the eye is rare. In dog breeds with prominent, bulging eyes, short noses, and shallow sockets (brachycephalic dogs), such as the shih tzu, Pekingese, pug, Lhasa apso, and Boston terrier, proptosis is a much more common problem. Some of these brachycephalic dogs have such loosely set eyes that even mild restraint or play can result in eye proptosis.

The prognosis for retaining vision after proptosis is poor.

Causes of Eye Proptosis in Dogs

Diagnosis of Proptosis in Dogs

*Proptosis is considered a true eye emergency. *Diagnosing proptosis is based on physical exam findings. The eye protrudes from the socket with the eyelids curled behind it. The lids cannot cover the eye and the surface of the eye rapidly becomes dry and discolored. In severe cases, the muscles of the eye may be torn so that the eye is deviated outward or is attached by only a few thin strands of tissue.

For proptosed eyes secondary to head trauma, a thorough physical examination concentrating on the face is crucial and may reveal other potentially serious complications. It is not uncommon for the bones of the face and jaw to be fractured in long nose (dolichocephalic) breeds of dogs.

Additional tests may include:

Treatment for Dogs with Eye Proptosis

Initially, lubricant or antibiotic ointments are applied to the injured eye in an attempt to reduce further damage to the cornea. Based on the severity of injury, the treatment options are enucleation (removal of the eye) or replacement of the eye back into the socket.

Home Care and Prevention

If you notice your dog has a proptosed eye, prompt veterinary attention is required.

Once home after treatment, many dogs must wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent pawing or rubbing at the sutured eye. Keep the collar on at all times, unless supervised.

If the eyelids have been sutured closed, examine them daily. Watch for signs of swelling, bleeding or yellow-green, infected discharge, and notify your veterinarian should they occur. Apply medications to the eye as prescribed. Notify your veterinarian immediately if you are having trouble giving any medications. Also watch for signs of lethargy or sluggishness, decreased appetite or fever. These may indicate infection in the area of the eye, and your veterinarian should be notified.

The only way to prevent proptosed eyes is to try to prevent the trauma that leads to the problem. Keeping your dog confined significantly reduces the chance of this type of trauma.

For those breeds that have excessively large eyelid openings or have a tendency to proptose their eyes, there is a surgical procedure that can be done to make the eyelid opening smaller.