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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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Ask a Vet

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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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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

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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1 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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Leo

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Pit bull

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5 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Eye Redness

my dog always hits his head on the table and today I noticed that he went crossed eyed for a second. I am worried he might be in pain, he isn't showing pain tho he plays a lot. I am worried he might need surgery but it wasn't for that long and it rarely happens. Will he get more cross eyed​?

Feb. 19, 2018

Leo's Owner

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0 Recommendations

There are various causes for cross eyes in dogs which may include head trauma, infections, parasites, tumours, neurological conditions, poisoning among other causes. Keep an eye on Leo and visit your Veterinarian if this problem continues; however if you suspect that he has a head injury or may have been poisoned, you should visit your Veterinarian immediately. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Feb. 19, 2018

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Pepper

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Patterdale x staff

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6 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Cross Eyed In Only One Eye

My dog has started over last few days to look like her eye is turning inwards, what could have caiused this, sounds silly probably but she recently has really liked her ear rubbed on that side, could it be connected, thankyou

Jan. 3, 2018

Pepper's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Possible causes for her eye to turn inwards may be a neurologic problem, or a mass behind her eye, among other things. It would be best to have her seen at your veterinarian to have the eye assessed and possible testing to see what is causing this and what could be done about it. It may be related to her ear being sensitive, that isn't silly at all! I hope that she feels better soon.

Jan. 3, 2018

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Miley

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Kelpie mix

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Both Eyes Turn Inward
Tilting Head

I have had my kelpie x cattle dog for a week now and seems to be crossed eyed. If she is do i have to take her to the vet regurly about her eyes to see if its all good?

Aug. 30, 2017

Miley's Owner


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1 Recommendations

Crossed eyes (or convergent strabismus) may caused by a few different causes including genetics, trauma, nerve irritation or vestibular issues; without examining Miley I cannot give you an indication to the cause or severity, but in many cases there is little follow up to crossed eyes. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 30, 2017

I have a shih tzu and he is a little over 3 months old. I noticed a couple weeks ago that his right eye goes far right right like he is looking out of the side of it but the left eye seems to be normal. So far I cannot notice him doing things any different they any other dog. Don't seem to bother him at all. Does it need to be fixed or do you think he will grow out of it? I do have an appointment with the Vet next week for his final shots.

Oct. 17, 2017

Danny H.

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