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Cross Eyed Dog: Why It Happens

Dog owner wondering about the reason why his dog is a cross eyed dog

Last Updated on September 9, 2021 by Jackie Castle


Have you noticed that the position of your dog’s eyes is kind of off? Or maybe you have noticed some cross eyed dogs in the dog park.

The medically correct term is “Strabismus” and it’s an eye condition that can be found in many species, including dogs and cats. Strabismus can even lead to a lazy eye.

Cross Eyed Dog— What is it?

Affected dogs can be cross-eyed (when both of their eyes are turned inwards), walleyed (eyes are turned outwards), or in some cases, just one eye is drifting either way.

This condition can be hereditary or can also happen later in life due to injuries or neurological conditions. Divergent strabismus doesn’t cause major health issues nor does it affect the quality of life. However, the underlying cause can.

If the cause is hereditary, so if it’s an inherited condition, they won’t feel any pain or discomfort.

However, if your dog injured the nerves in his eyes this can also result in strabismus as a side effect. And this will be painful.

So, if it is due to an injury some ways your dog can injure his eye nerves are:

  • Trauma to the eye
  • A head injury
  • Hard falls
  • Car accidents

Either way, you should take your dog to see a professional and see if it can get fixed. Especially if you just recently noticed the issue as it may be a sign of something else.

How does a dog become cross eyed?

If your canine has crossed eyes, it’s most likely that his eyes do not work together in harmony. Nor is their vestibular system working right. That can cause one or both eyes to drift instead on focusing on what your dog is looking at.

Three muscles help the eyes to move normally: the trochlear, oculomotor, and abducens. Each eye has its own set of muscles and nerves. And all of them need to be in harmony in order for the eyes to work normally. However, if a muscle or nerve isn’t aligned with the others, or if the eye muscles are weak muscles it manifests as crossed eyes.

Symptoms of Crossed Eyes in Dogs

The symptoms largely vary and they mostly depend on the cause of the cross eyes.

The most common symptoms include:

  1. Eyes drifting outwards or inwards
  2. Tilting head
  3. Squinting eyes
  4. Dizziness and incoordination
  5. Vision trouble

Types and Causes of Crossed Eyes in Dogs

There are different types of divergent Strabismus in dogs and they depends on the cause of the eyes crossing.

  1. Hereditary
  2. Traumatic
  3. Muscle weakness
  4. Nerve disorders

Causes of Crossed Eyes in Dogs

The causes of crossed eyes in dogs can vary, but the most common ones are:

  1. Genetics
  2. Different injuries that cause trauma to the eye muscle
  3. Crossed nerves in the central nervous system that can cause weakness or improper movements in the eye muscles

Diagnosing a Cross Eyed Dog

If you notice one or both of your dog’s eyeballs starting to drift either inwards or outwards, take him to the vet.

While the changes may just be subtle at the begging, it’s best that a professional has a look at it right away.

So, the vet will form a diagnosis based on your dog’s medical history, possible injuries or medications that he may take.

It’s especially important that you talk openly and honestly to your veterinarian about the possible cause of your dog’s eye issues. Make sure to tell your vet everything you know about possible injuries or medications that you may have give to your canine. That part is especially important as some drugs can affect a proper diagnosis and treatment.

In some cases your dog will even have to see a veterinary ophthalmologist where they will do some tests. For example, they will run diagnostic tests such as a Schirmer tear test, intraocular pressure measuring, pupillary light response, and menace response. The veterinarian may also perform head x-rays and routine blood tests to rule out other conditions.

Vestibular strabismus is possible in any dog. But, there are certain breeds that are more prone to be cross eyed:

  • Boston Terriers
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Shar Pei
  • Akita
  • Golden Retriever

Treatment of Crossed Eyes

The treatment can vary depending on the cause of the crossed eyes. Medications or surgery can help correct the muscle or nerve disorder that is causing the eye condition.

However, if the cause is a hereditary condition, there is no need to treat your cross-eyed dog.

Medications

In most common cases anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed. In other cases, corticosteroids can help too. The medications will vary from the cause, but their effect can be limited in severe cases.

Surgery

If the Strabismus is severe, surgery will be the only way out. Surgical options include fixing the muscles or nerve that aren’t in alignment. Of course, just like with every other surgery, this can be a bit risky too. So, that’s why it’s not recommended unless in severe cases.

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