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What are Crossed Eyes?

With this condition, your dog can be cross-eyed (both eyes turned inwards), walleyed (both eyes facing outward), or just one eye may drift either way. This may be hereditary, or it may be caused by weak muscles, a nerve condition, or injury. The eye condition does not usually cause any major problems, but the underlying cause can produce other symptoms that affect your dog. There is usually no pain or any type of discomfort of the eye unless there was an injury or if it is caused by a painful disorder. However, you should take your dog to see a veterinary professional if your dog suddenly has crossed eyes. This could be a medical emergency if your dog did not previously have crossed eyes before because it may be a sign of something wrong with his nervous system.

Crossed eyes (esotropia or convergent strabismus) is a condition in which your dog’s eyes do not work together, causing one or both eyes to drift wherever they want instead of focusing on what he is looking at. There are three nerves that control the muscles of the eyeball, which include the trochlear, oculomotor, and abducens. It is these muscles that help the eyes to move where they should be and each eye has its own set of muscles and nerves. The muscles must all be balanced properly for your dog’s eyes to work the way they should. If one of the muscles or nerves is not working correctly, that eye will not be aligned. With crossed eyes, a muscle or nerve in each eye is not aligned and this is causing the eyes to turn inward.

Symptoms of Crossed Eyes in Dogs

The symptoms vary quite a bit depending on the cause, severity, and whether your dog has been able to compensate for the problem. In some cases, the eyes may be fixed over time on their own just by one compensating for the other. The most common signs include:

  • Both eyes turn inward
  • Eyes may sometimes be normal but turn inward when trying to focus
  • Tilting head
  • Squinting eyes
  • Dizziness and incoordination
  • Vision trouble

Types

  • Fibrosing esotropia is a progressive condition in the Shar Pei and large and giant breeds of dogs such as German Shepherds and Great Danes. This condition produces fibrosis of the muscles that control the eyes (dorsal oblique and medial rectus). In some cases, only one eye is affected but it usually affects both, causing crossed eyes and impaired vision. Surgery can fix this if the condition is severe enough.
  • Hereditary (one or both eyes)
  • Traumatic (Injury or scar tissue from old injury)
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nerve disorders
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Causes of Crossed Eyes in Dogs

  • Genetics (large or giant breeds and Shar Peis)
  • Damage to the eye muscle from scar tissue (usually from previous trauma or inflammation)
  • Crossed nerves in the central nervous system causing weakness or improper movement of the muscles
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Diagnosis of Crossed Eyes in Dogs

If your dog suddenly becomes cross-eyed or seems to be having trouble seeing, you need to bring him to see a veterinary expert as soon as possible. The veterinarian will need to know your pet’s medical history, whether he has been ill recently or has had any injuries. Also, make sure you tell the veterinarian if you have given your dog any medicine. Some drugs can adversely affect the diagnosis process and treatment plan. A physical exam will be done first to check your dog’s vitals and overall condition.

A detailed optical examination is necessary and your veterinarian may send you to a veterinary ophthalmologist at this point. The process will usually include a Schirmer tear test, intraocular pressure measuring, pupillary light response, and menace response. The veterinarian will also perform head x-rays and routine blood tests to rule out other conditions.

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Treatment of Crossed Eyes in Dogs

The treatment for crossed eyes include medication or surgery to correct the muscle or nerve disorder, if that is the case. If it is an inherited condition, there is no reason for treatment.

Medication

Anti-inflammatory drugs may be helpful in reducing the crossed eyes. Corticosteroids may help fibrosing esotropia, but surgery to resect the medial rectus muscles is usually required in severe cases.

Surgery

There are surgical options for fixing the muscles or nerves or to remove scar tissue from previous injury or infection. However, this is not recommended unless your dog’s quality of life is affected.

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Recovery of Crossed Eyes in Dogs

If your dog has crossed eyes, you should not breed him because he can pass down the condition if it is hereditary. Your dog’s prognosis is excellent since it does not usually affect the quality of life at all. If the condition is severe, the surgery should have your dog seeing better in a few days. Be sure to follow all the instructions and call your veterinarian if you have any issues.

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Crossed Eyes Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Pitt bull

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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Crossed Eyed Drooling Trouble Eating And Drinking Running Into Things

Why is my dog's eyes crossed after having tail amputated?

July 10, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. This would be really weird occurrence. It would be best for your vet to look at your dog and see if there is anything that could have caused damage to this area. Many times this will slowly improve. I hope your dog starts to feel better soon.

July 10, 2020

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Bullboxer Staff

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Five Months

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Crossed Eyes

Is it normal for my dog to have Cross eye

July 10, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, Some dogs can be cross-eyed. This can sometimes start to improve on its own as your dog gets older and sometimes this is permanent.

July 10, 2020

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Riggs

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Labrador Retriever

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18 Months

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

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Vision Problems

Curious on this topic. My 1.5 yr old lab seems to have Right eye drifting in very slightly. Not all the time. Seems worse with distance vs close up. I note randomly if I am standing in front of him he seems to be looking over my Right shoulder but it seems as if he is looking at me. Hard to tell. I tested his tracking of a treat and it seems fine. No imbalance. Can catch items from a distance. Acting fully normal. We tend to call our vet a lot and I feel like I am worrying about nothing especially with no other symptoms.

April 17, 2018

Riggs' Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Riggs may have a problem with the muscles or nerves that are supplying his right eye, and I don't think that you are being over cautious by noticing this. It would be worth having him seen, either by your veterinarian, or by an ophthalmologist, to determine what is happening and if you should be concerned.

April 17, 2018

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Hunter

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Weimaraner

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14 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Eye Cross
Unstable
Trouble Opening Jaw

My dog shows one eye crossing inward but only when he eats hard food/treats. Otherwise his eyes are fine. He also had trouble with balance, was prescribed steroid which helps significantly. Thank you, Jane

March 27, 2018

Hunter's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Without knowing more about what is going on with Hunter, it is hard for me to comment on what might be going on with him, but there are tiny muscles that control eye movement and position. If that muscle is fatigued when he eats hard food, that may be causing the signs that you see. If it isn't causing any problems for him and he is otherwise doing well under your veterinarian's care, it may be fine to monitor that situation.

March 28, 2018

Thank you! After seeing 3 veterinarians, we aren't sure what his problem is without an MRI (which if course is very costly). I just thought I'd ask because the eye crossing didn't fit with other potential problems (brain tumor, autoimmune disease, or neck sprain).

March 28, 2018

Hunter's Owner

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Stella

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German shepherd mix

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4 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Cross Eye
Cross Eyes

I have a 4/5 year old German Shepherd Mix. This morning when she came down the hallway, she had her ears back and her eyes were lazy/crossed down and towards her nose. The majority showing was white. She was responsive and not disoriented. She was able to respond to commands (Sit/Shake). By the time I had searched emergency vet on my phone her eyes were normal. Her eyes have never been like that when she is awake, but she does constantly sleeps with her lids open and her eyes drift down. Gums are pink, stool is normal, eating and drinking. What would cause this and should I be concerned?

March 15, 2018

Stella's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Possible causes for that problem may be a neurologic condition, or a weakening of the muscles of the eyes. It would be a good idea to have her examined, as it isn't normal for her to be doing that, and your veterinarian will be able to assess both her neurologic function, and the normal movement of her eyes. They'll be able to determine if anything can or needs to be done about this.

March 15, 2018

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Monkey

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Golden Retriever

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6 Weeks

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Eyes Drifting Outward
Whites Of The Eyes Showing

My puppy contracted parvovirus and when he was about 5 weeks old (2 days prior - 12/02/2020) his eyes started drifting outward. Is this because of his exhaustion due to fighting parvovirus at such a young age causing him not to even have enough energy to focus his eyes. Or has he gone cross eyed is there anything that can be done about this

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Olivia

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Pit bull

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10 Weeks

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Mild severity

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Drifftted Outward Eye

Hi our puppy has an eye that drift outwards sometimes, since we got her. I've heard that if you cover or patch the good eye, it help the drifting eye by making the muscles work more then that can help correct the problem. Do you think this is somewhat true? Thanks

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