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Horner’s Syndrome In Golden Retrievers

Horner’s Syndrome In Golden Retrievers
Horner's Syndrome In Golden Retrievers

Horner’s syndrome is a somewhat mysterious and intriguing disorder that can occur in many species. While this disorder can occur in all dog breeds, Horner’s syndrome is most common in Golden Retrievers. More than 90% of all diagnosed cases of Horner’s syndrome are middle-aged to older Golden Retrievers. In this article, we will dive deeper into this subject and discover all you need to know about this disorder.

What Is Horner’s Syndrome?

Horner’s syndrome, also known as Droopy eye condition, is a common nervous system disorder that affects eye nerves and facial muscles. It can occur suddenly and affect one side of the head, or in rare cases, both sides of the head can be affected.

What Causes Horner’s Syndrome?

In most cases, Horner’s Syndrome is classified as idiopathic, meaning there is no known cause of the disorder. On the other hand occurrence of Horner’s syndrome could signal some serious underlying health problem.

These are the most common causes of Horner’s syndrome in Golden Retrievers:

  • Idiopathic (no known cause)
  • Brain, neck, spine, or chest injury
  • Brain or spinal tumor
  • Middle or inner ear disease
  • Infection of the nervous tissue
Horner's Syndrome In Golden Retrievers

Symptoms of Horner’s Syndrome In Golden Retrievers

These are the most common clinical signs of Horner’s Syndrome:

  • Upper eyelid can’t fully open (ptosis)
  • Prolapse of the third, inner eyelid
  • Smaller size pupil in one or both eyes (miosis)
  • Redness and inflammation of the tissue above the lower eyelid

Horner’s Syndrome in Golden Retrievers: Diagnosis And Treatment

Most cases of Horner’s syndrome will resolve spontaneously, just as they occurred. 

Nonetheless, if your Golden Retriever exhibits some of the above-mentioned symptoms, you should consult your vet. 

The veterinarian should then perform a thorough physical exam on your Golden to determine an underlying issue that caused this disorder to occur.

Several diagnostic tests will be performed to determine the exact cause of Horner’s syndrome.

The routine is to perform a standard urinalysis and blood tests. Should there be an indication of head or spinal injury, brain or spinal tumor, the vet will perform more detailed tests. X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI scan will be taken to analyze and determine the exact cause.

If your Golden Retriever, besides all other symptoms, has a fever and acts abnormally, this could be a sign of meningitis.

If your vet suspects this is the case, he will perform a spinal tap and analysis of the spinal fluid to determine if there is a sign of nervous system infection.

We treat Horner’s syndrome with eye drops that contain phenylephrine. They will reduce inflammation of the third eyelid and dilate the constricted pupil. Eye drops should be administered once or twice a day for about three weeks.


Horner’s syndrome is not a serious condition and will resolve itself spontaneously in most cases. Recovery lasting from several weeks to about 4 months. Nonetheless, the occurrence of Horner’s syndrome in your Golden Retriever could be a sign of more serious health issues.

This is why it is of utmost importance that you visit the vet and perform extensive tests and analysis to determine if there is an underlying health problem in your dog.