A dog's left eye showing no signs of strabismus.

Strabismus in Dogs

Strabismus is misdirection of the eye. Instead of pointing forward in a direction parallel to the nose, the eye is turned either inward towards the dog’s nose (esotropia) or outward away from the nose (exotropia). Strabismus may be caused by an abnormality in the muscles behind the eye, or in the nerves that control those muscles. With strabismus, only the direction of the eye is changed, the position of the eye within the orbit (eye socket) is usually normal.

Strabismus may be present in only one eye, or it can occur in both eyes. When both eyes are involved and the eyes are turned to the outside, the strabismus is called divergent. When the eyes are both turned towards the nose and are cross-eyed, the strabismus is called convergent. The eyes may also be deviated downward or upward.

Strabismus can occur in animals of all ages. It may be present at birth and reflect abnormalities in the development of the eye, the muscles of the eye, or the brain. Or strabismus may develop later in life. The onset of strabismus in an adult animal that was previously normal can represent a serious problem behind the eye.

Causes of Strabismus in Dogs

Canine Strabismus: What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Strabismus in Dogs

Complete physical, neurologic, and ophthalmologic examinations are indicated to determine whether the problem is an eye problem or a neurological problem. Diagnostic tests include the following:

Once strabismus is diagnosed in your dog, an extensive search is often required to identify any underlying diseases. Tests to be considered include the following:

Treatment of Strabismus in Dogs

Treatment is aimed at correcting the underlying cause of the problem, so it is important to reach a specific diagnosis if at all possible. Some causes of strabismus affect only the eye and are not life threatening, while other causes indicate a serious underlying neurologic or systemic problem that requires prompt medical attention.

Home Care and Prevention for Dogs with Strabismus

There is no way to prevent the development of strabismus. When the strabismus is due to a neurologic problem that affects the middle or inner ear, or area of the brain that coordinates movement, then your dog may also experience severe dizziness (vertigo). Protect him from falling, rolling or otherwise hurting himself.

Strabismus that is a congenital (present at birth) may require periodic monitoring through out the dog’s life. If your pet was normal before and suddenly develops strabismus, seek medical attention promptly.