Seeing Cross-Eyed: What is Strabismus in Dogs?

Have you ever seen a dog whose eyes seem to point in different directions? If so, it was probably a case of strabismus, commonly referred to as walleye or cross eye. This condition can occur in one or both eyes for affected dogs and it can sometimes be an indication of an underlying problem. Let’s take a closer look at strabismus in dogs.

What Causes Strabismus in Dogs?

The term “strabismus” refers to the abnormal positioning or direction of a dog’s eyeball. In healthy dogs, the eye is held in place by small muscles that are attached directly to the eye. By contracting these muscles, the dog and move the eye from side to side and up and down. If one of the muscles supporting the eye becomes stronger or longer than the muscle in the other eye, it can cause the eye to move in an abnormal direction. This condition can affect one or both eyes and the eyeballs can deviate in any direction. When the deviation moves in toward the nose, the dog is usually said to be cross-eyed.

Related: Living Well With Your Blind Dog

When it comes to the cause for strabismus in dogs, there are a number of different possibilities. For some dogs, strabismus is a genetically inherited condition – this is particularly true for Boston Terriers and Pugs. Another major cause for this condition is injury or trauma to the eye which results in scar tissue or inflammation that restricts the movement of the eye or affects the supporting muscles. In rare cases, the visual fibers in the central nervous system become crossed which leads to abnormal deviations in one or both eyes.  In order to diagnose your dog with strabismus, your vet will need a thorough medical history and a description of symptoms – he may also need to perform an eye exam, x-rays, and other tests to determine the underlying cause for the condition.

Treatment Options and Prognosis

The treatment options for strabismus in dogs depend on the underlying cause of the condition. In dogs where the condition is genetic, treatment is generally not required because the condition is primarily cosmetic in nature – it doesn’t affect the dog’s ability to see and it doesn’t cause him any pain. In cases where the condition is caused by inflammation or scar tissue, surgery may be required to correct the condition. In some cases, anti-inflammatory medications may be enough to correct the issue and the dog might need some therapy as well to help strengthen the muscles behind the eye.

Related: What is a Double Merle Dog?

Depending on the type of treatment your dog receives, the prognosis for strabismus is generally good. Your veterinarian will want to see your dog for at least one follow-up visit after the treatment to make sure he is healing and recovering properly. If your dog’s strabismus is due to some kind of infection, you may need to take him in for check-ups more often and you should keep an eye out for side effects caused by antibiotics or other medications. If during your dog’s recovery you see any signs of the condition returning, contact your vet immediately in order to prevent permanent damage happening to your dog’s eye.

In many cases, strabismus is not a painful or dangerous condition for dogs – especially in cases where it is an inherited genetic disease. If the disease is genetic it is not recommended that you breed your dog because he could pass it on. If your vet decides that treatment is not necessary you may need to make some accommodations for your dog if the condition affects his vision, but most dogs do just fine.

kate-Bio_PicKate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor’s degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.