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What is Droopy Eye?

“Droopy eye” is a condition in which the nerves to a dog’s eye have been inflamed or damaged. This leads to a number of highly identifiable characteristics that veterinarians refer to as Horner’s Syndrome. First, the dog’s upper eyelid will appear to droop or not fully open. The pupil will be very small and unable to open in response to lowered lighting. Finally, the “3rd eyelid” or nictitating membrane located inside the lower eyelid may appear inflamed or push out, leaving a reddened area above the lower eyelid. This syndrome indicates a lack of nervous system communication and may reflect a deeper problem, especially if your dog is having difficulty walking or swallowing. However, in breeds like Golden Retrievers, Horner’s syndrome may present idiopathically, that is, without any identifiable cause. While somewhat unsightly, Horner’s syndrome on its own does not present a serious risk for your pet.

Horner’s syndrome refers to a nervous system disorder affecting the eye. The pupils will be small, the eyelid partially closed, and the 3rd eyelid will be elevated and protruding slightly. While not serious on its own, Horner’s syndrome may indicate problems with the nervous system.

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Droopy Eye Average Cost

From 183 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$600

Symptoms of Droopy Eye in Dogs

  • Small, constricted pupil in one or both eyes
  • Top eyelid cannot fully open
  • Patch of reddened tissue above lower eyelid
  • General redness and inflammation
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Causes of Droopy Eye in Dogs

  • Infection of the spinal cord or brain
  • Trauma to the brain, neck or chest
  • Brain or spinal tumor
  • Infection compromising nervous tissue
  • Idiopathic (no identifiable cause)
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Diagnosis of Droopy Eye in Dogs

If you notice your pet’s eye exhibiting the above symptoms, you will need to see a veterinarian to make sure there are no associated conditions causing Horner’s syndrome. The veterinarian will want a history of any activities your dog has engaged in that might result in injury, and any observations you may have of abnormal behavior in your dog. Tell your veterinarian if your dog has recently had a tumor or any surgery.

The veterinarian will perform a number of routine tests, usually an analysis of a urine sample, a CBC (an analysis of a blood sample to count the types of cells and their relative proportions), and of course a physical exam. These tests will help the veterinarian to determine the underlying cause, if any, of the droopy eye.

If the veterinarian suspects a tumor, broken bone or injury, medical imaging will be needed. X-ray and ultrasound are useful for showing some types of injury, and can usually be done quickly in a vet’s office. MRI and CT scans require a larger machine, and so your vet may refer you to an animal hospital that has the equipment.

Finally, if your dog has presented with a fever along with abnormal behavior, your doctor may conduct a spinal tap. This involves shaving and sterilizing an area on your dog’s back, and inserting a needle between the vertebrae to collect spinal fluid. An analysis of this fluid will aid the veterinarian in determining if your pet has an infection of the nervous system like meningitis.

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Treatment of Droopy Eye in Dogs

The acute symptoms of droopy eye can be treated with eyedrops containing phenylephrine. This will dilate the constricted pupil and reduce the inflammation of the third eyelid. However, if there is an underlying cause, this will need to be treated according to the type of ailment. Spinal infections like bacterial meningitis will need quick administration of lifesaving antibiotics, whereas tumors will need surgical removal, radiation or chemotherapy. In the case of trauma (e.g. car accident, fall etc.), surgical intervention may be required to free pinched or trapped nerves and reduce scar tissue.

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Recovery of Droopy Eye in Dogs

Idiopathic droopy eye may sometimes resolve on its own, but to ensure complete recovery, veterinarians often recommend administering phenylephrine eyedrops. These will need to be administered every 12-24 hours for about three weeks. The outlook for idiopathic Horner’s is very good, usually resolve quickly. The condition may re-appear in cases of dehydration or infection, but is not considered serious and can be treated the same way.

The outlook of other conditions with Horner’s syndrome as a symptom will vary, but in general, the droopy eye portion can be resolved the same way, and the underlying cause treated according to a veterinarian’s recommendation.

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Droopy Eye Average Cost

From 183 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$600

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Droopy Eye Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Rottweiler

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5 months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Droopy Eye

Just within the last few hours my boys right eye suddenly became really droopy and the inside eye lid began to cover the bottom half of his eye. I want to know if it’ll go away? Does is cause him pain? And why?

July 22, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Ellen M. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, thank you for your question. I am sorry to hear that your dog's eye seems to be having some issues. I can certainly see what you are referring to in the pictures. Without examining your dog in person to closely check the eye, it is very hard for me to know for sure what might be going on. What you describe could be consistent with an injury that occurred to the eye, severe dehydration, or an issue with the nervous system's communication with the eyes. This could also be from your dog being very tired, but if that is the case it should resolve once your dog is fully awake. Without knowing the cause, it's impossible to know whether it will go away on it's own or whether it's painful. I recommend having your dog seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you are concerned or if it is worsening, you could call a veterinary emergency clinic and explain to them what is happening to see if he should be examined right away. I hope that your dog starts feeling better soon!

July 22, 2020

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Golden Retriever

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Redness

Eyes not red but no other option. 3rd eyelid showing both eyes. Acts tired. Smelly ears so i used ear cleaner. Little discharge from one eye. Hardly eating. Is this cause for concern? Or can I treat at home? Allergies? Not taking any meds

July 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. If his 3rd eyelids are showing and he is not eating these can both be signs of GI issues. You can try to give him a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice to see if that helps entices him to eat. If not, it would be best to see your vet. Him not eating is very concerning. I hope your dog starts to feel better soon.

July 12, 2020

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Red golden retriever

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Fifteen Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Droppy Eye

She has had a droopy eye for about a week and noe it has a green mucus and she wont move and hardly eats or drinks

July 9, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello If your pet's eye is drooping and has green discharge, she may have an eye infection or dry eye. It is recommended that you take your pup to a veterinarian for an exam. They may want to send home some eye drops for her. Good luck.

July 9, 2020

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Pit Bull

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Thirteen Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Left Eye Is Drooping

As of today because yesterday my dogs I was not like this, I noticed the left eye droop down. Where it droops From the eye lid you can see the redness. I was concerned because I’ve never seen this before with my dog, I didn’t know if he maybe had ran in to some thing out in the yard or maybe a bee sting. I can send a picture if need be.

July 9, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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If he was stung by in insect, the redness and droopiness should resolve within a few hours. If the problem is continuing, or he is pawing at his eye, he may have something wrong with his eye, and it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian to see what is going on and what treatment he may need. I hope that all goes well for him!

July 9, 2020

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Shelby

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Golden Retriever

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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3 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Droopy Eye

My golden retriever Shelby is 12.5 yrs old. The last 4 years, each year she has had surgery to remove a cyst that has bursted- it is very strange. With each surgery, she has recovered great. In March this year, she had a cyst removed on her paw and things went very well. This July, a cyst burst in her chest, and we decided to have surgery to remove it and also remove 3 others that were decent sizes. We picked her up that Tuesday evening, and she was exhausted but u figured due to anesthesia etc. Friday morning ( a little over 48 hrs after surgery), her right eye was droopy and I can see third eyelid and red/pink. I took her in that morning nd they believe it’s Horner’s disease and they also did the paper tear test and her blink and tear production are fine. . While she was in surgery, they apparently cleaned some tartar off her teeth which was never discussed. Could the teeth cleaning have caused this eye issue? Will her eye ever get better? She looks horrible with that eye, but all other behavior seems normal. I am looking for some answers and so upset. Please help.

July 31, 2018

Shelby's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Horner’s syndrome may occur for various different causes which may include idiopathic (around 50% of cases), ear infections, trauma to the facial nerve among other causes; keep an eye on the symptoms and monitor for any improvement. I cannot say what the specific cause is and it may resolve itself with time, just make sure the eye remains lubricated. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 1, 2018

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Bruce Wayne

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Labrador Husky

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7 Years

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Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Droopy Eye

Bruce got hit with a ball in the face as we were playing fetch. He is acting 100% normal, but his eyes look horrible. They look like what is described. At first it was just one, but now it is both. They look different minute to minute, but I don’t know if I should do anything or when it becomes something we should take him to the vet for.

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Bonnie

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Boxer

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Droopy Eyelid
Droopy Eyelid, Inflamed Eyelid

My 2 year-old boxer has today had a droopy inflamed left eye she seemed very tired do she went to sleep and then woke up 2 hours after with it slightly there but not as bad. She did have her teeth brushed before we noticed it could it have been a facial nerve issue.

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Roxie

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Boxer

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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3 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Droopy Eye

All of the sudden Roxie had one droopy bottom eye lid, so bad that she could not fully open her top eyelid either. A significant amount of red was showing as well. She was alert but did seem a tiny bit confused. This lasted for about 15 minutes, and scared us as it seemed to be a stroke. (We have never dealt with any of this, but she is getting old so this was our uneducated guess). After the episode she returned to her normal self.

Droopy Eye Average Cost

From 183 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$600

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