Keeping One Eye Closed in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Why is my dog keeping one eye closed?

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Why is my dog keeping one eye closed?

What is Keeping One Eye Closed?

There are times where a dog may keep one eye closed for an extended period of time. He may also try to blink the eye that is affected. When your dog keeps one eye closed, something is amiss. You may want to try looking at the eye yourself to check for other symptoms, but it is a good idea to contact your veterinarian. Squinting can also be called 'blepharospasm'.

If your dog is keeping one eye closed for more than a few hours, you will need a professional to examine his eye. It is important to address the situation so his eye does not become infected. Your dog may be in pain, and if he paws at it to rub it, it could make the situation worse. Reasons your dog may be keeping one eye closed are because of:

  • Eye trauma
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye)
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Glaucoma
  • Corneal ulcer
  • Foreign body within the eye (e.g. grit or a grass awn)

Why Keeping One Eye Closed Occurs in Dogs

There are several different reasons why your dog may be keeping one eye closed. These conditions are treatable if not left without medical attention for too long. Reasons may include:

Eye Trauma

If the thin tissue on the eye surface is damaged by punctures or any lacerations, the cornea can become very sore and irritated. This will most likely be noticeable to you, as your dog may keep one eye closed or try to blink it repeatedly. He may also paw at his eye as if to relieve the pain. The eye may also be red and have a watery discharge.

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, or Dry Eye

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, or dry eye, is when the tear glands do not make enough lunricating tears. These tears are very much needed, as they keep foreign substances out of the eye and the tissues within the cornea. With no tears, your dog can get ulcers or irritations, and even eye infections.

Conjunctivitis, or Pink Eye

The mucous membranes that are in the eyelids are the conjunctiva. Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, and is caused by irritation to the eye and infections. Allergies can also cause conjunctivitis. In addition to keeping his eye closed, your dog may also have discharge and crust that develops within and around the eye. The eye may also be red in color.

Glaucoma

Increased pressure in the eye can be very painful and an affected dog can hold their eye shut in an attempt to relieve the pain.

Corneal ulcer

An ulcer on the surface of the eye is a little scratch. It can be caused by e.g. a scrape with a claw or a reaction to a foreign body. The vet will identify an ulcer by using a stain. It is important to assess the extent of the ulcer as deep ulcers need specific treatment.

Foreign body within the eye (e.g. grit or a grass awn)

While the eyelashes and eyelids usually work well to keep foreign bodies out, they are not always successful. The irritation they cause locally means a dog will struggle to open their eye wide. Many can be flushed out with saline while conscious, as long as they are not too deep.

arrow-up-icon

Top

What to do if your Dog is Keeping One Eye Closed

If you notice your dog keeping one eye closed, it is time to make an appointment with your veterinarian. He will quickly assess your dog’s condition and take a close look at his eye. He may use an opthalmoscope so he can see into the back of the eye. If he notices an infection, he may go ahead and prescribe a medication (e.g. topical antibiotics)  for your pet. 

Oftentimes, a vet will assess tear production with the Schirmer Tear Test and will stain the eye for an ulcer with a Fluorescein stain.

If your dog has a foreign object in his eye, your veterinarian may also choose to remove it. For many, a quick flush with saline does the trick. For more deeply embedded objects, the vet may need to numb your dog’s eye in order to remove them. In some instances, a specialist surgeon will be called in.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Prevention of Keeping One Eye Closed

There are things you can do to prevent your dog from suffering from eye trauma, which is one reason why he may be holding one eye closed. When playing with your dog, avoid having any sharp objects around, especially at eye level. It is a good idea to avoid having any sharp objects that are eye level to the dog altogether in order to prevent any eye trauma. 

If you see your dog’s eye is beginning to look red, and if it has a discharge, make an appointment with your veterinarian to get it checked out right away. This may help ward off infection, as the medical professional may prescribe medication or drops to keep it from becoming worse. 

If your dog lives in a sandy area, or an area with a lot of dust, monitor his eyes frequently so they are kept debris-free. If he goes outside and gets sand or dirt on his paws, he may rub his paws on his face and this may cause the sand or dirt to get in his eye. It may be helpful to wipe off his paws as he comes inside.

Susceptible breeds (such as Shih Tzus) should have their tear production measured at their annual exam to ensure it is adequate.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Cost of Keeping One Eye Closed

The cost for treatment or removal of a foreign object from the eye can be $600. The cost of any eye infection (conjunctivitis) may approximately be $150.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Worried about the cost of treating your pet's symptoms?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Keeping One Eye Closed Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Maltipoo

dog-age-icon

Thirteen Years

thumbs-up-icon

11 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

11 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Squinting Eye

Lola got bit below the inner eye corner two weeks ago. We took her to the vet and she got an antibiotic shot and pain meds. The wound closed by itself but today I’ve noticed that she’s been squinting the same eye and has had more eye boogers than usual. Could it be related to her injury or something else completely? To preface the pictures... excuse her stick mustache but she’s a messy eater 😋. It’s also important to note that she has cataracts which is why her eyes are cloudy. The first of the pictures are of the eye she keeps squinting (right eye). Darkest eye picture is the healthy one.

May 25, 2021

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

recommendation-ribbon

11 Recommendations

I suspect she may have a bacterial infection which could be related to the injury. I would want to stain the eye for any corneal ulcers and also check her tear production to ensure it isn't low. If you can, trim the fur around her eyes in case it is rubbing on the eye and bathe discharge with cotton wool and warm water. I suspect the vet will prescribe her some antibiotics drops.

May 25, 2021

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Cane Corso

dog-age-icon

One Year

thumbs-up-icon

9 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

9 found helpful

Has Symptoms

My dogs left eye has some discharge, it's red, and he keeps it closed

Dec. 11, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

recommendation-ribbon

9 Recommendations

I'm sorry to hear this. From the photo, both eyes appear affected. Given his age and breed we would consider issues such as entopion or dystichiasis. He may well have a secondary infection. He needs to see a vet who can examine the eyes. They will ensure that production his adequate and check for ulcers by running a few simple tests. Treatment will depend on what we find but may include pain relief and drops. Use a buster collar to stop him rubbing if needed and clean the discharge with wet cotton wool as needed.

Dec. 11, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

Need vet advice?
Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

2,708 satisfied customers

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.