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What is Squinting?

While dogs may squint slightly in the sun or bright areas, if prolonged squinting occurs it is most likely due to some underlying issue. It is important to pay attention to your dog’s behavior when attempting to decide whether squinting is due to an injury or disease. Symptoms of this type of problem may include excessive tearing, pain when opening the mouth, photophobia, excessive rubbing at the eyes, and mucus or pus-like discharge. 

  • Foreign material 
  • Corneal ulcer 
  • Glaucoma
  • Infection 
  • Trauma to the face or eye
  • Inadequate tear production 

Although none of these issues are life threatening, some of them may result in blindness. It is extremely important to get your pet to the veterinarian if you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms in order to preserve your dog’s quality of life.

Why Squinting Occurs in Dogs

If your dog is squinting for any other reason than being in the sun or direct bright light, it may be due to a more serious issue such as a foreign material lodged in the eye, corneal ulcers, glaucoma, infection, trauma, or inadequate tear production. 

Foreign Material 

Just like human’s, if some kind of object gets stuck in your dog’s eye, irritation can occur. Whether that object is an eyelash or perhaps a small piece of wood, most likely the item will be washed out over time with tears. However, if irritation is prolonged or the object is lodged into the body of the eye, a trip to the vet may be required in order to remove the material.  

Corneal Ulcers

 

Although there are quite a few other reasons for eye squinting, eye ulcers are one of the most common. This problem is when erosion through the whole epithelium occurs. When this happens, fluid from tears is absorbed into the stroma, creating a cloudy appearance within the eye. If the erosion continues through the stroma and into the Descemet’s membrane serious damage can take place. This is because if the fluid buildup causes the membrane to rupture, the eye can collapse which will then be irreparable. The most common cause for corneal ulcers is trauma, such as a laceration or your dog rubbing his eye on the carpet. If you notice that your dog has experienced any trauma to his eyes or face, get him to a veterinarian immediately in order to be sure no serious damage has occurred. 

Glaucoma 

Because this disease is something that creates pressure against the eye, it can be extremely painful for your dog. It is important to get your pet to a vet as soon as possible in order to get the situation taken care quickly. While Glaucoma is not life threatening, if it goes untreated for long period of time it can cause irreparable damage that will significantly lessen your dog’s quality of life. 

Infection

 

If an infection takes root behind the eye and within the socket, your dog will be in a lot of pain. Infections can occur from a number of different things and one of the most common symptoms is a difficulty opening their mouth. If you notice that your dog is squinting and cannot open his mouth from the pain, it is best to take him to the vet and get treatment for any infection that may be present. 

Trauma 

As mentioned earlier, trauma can be a predecessor to an eye ulcer. If your dog has experienced any recent trauma to the eyes or to the face, you may want to visit a vet in order to get your dog checked. 

Inadequate Tear Production

 

Otherwise known as dry eye, inadequate tear production can cause your dog pain due to the lack of moisture keeping all parts moving well. Friction and dryness may cause your dog to paw at his eyes and squint often. This problem will call for a visit to the vet in order to determine the proper course of action for fixing the lack of tears. 

Despite the fact that none of these issues are deadly, it is important to get your dog’s eyes inspected if there is any squinting in order to solve the issue as soon as possible.

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What to do if your Dog is Squinting

The first thing to do when you notice your dog squinting is to observe and inspect the eye as best you can. If you notice that there is something within the eye, such as a piece or grass or an eyelash, allow the eye time to wash it out on its own. However, if the problem persists you may want to visit your vet in order to get help removing the foreign object. 

If you know that your dog has experienced any recent trauma, and is showing signs such as pawing at the eye, redness, swelling, or discharge you will want to visit a vet immediately in order to determine what the underlying issue may be. Things such as Glaucoma and Ulcers will need to be taken care of with medical attention.

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Prevention of Squinting

Due to the many causes of squinting, it is nearly impossible to prevent. The best steps to take are to ensure that if your dog has received any head trauma, that you get him to the vet as soon as possible for a checkup. This quick response will help to ensure that any problems can be discovered quickly and efficiently; therefore, resulting in quick treatment in order to restore your dog’s overall quality of life if possible. An annual  wellness check, a good idea for any pet, can often determine if an eye condition such as glaucoma is developing.

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Cost of Squinting

Treatment cost will vary depending on the cause of your dog’s squinting. For instance, if your dog is diagnosed with eye inflammation, the cost of treatment can range from $200 to $2500. If your dog is diagnosed with an eye injury, the average treatment is around $600.

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Squinting Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Yorkshire Terrier

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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Redness

His eye is red and he’s slightly squinting in that eye

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello Thank you for your question. Your pet may have scratched his eye which would cause it to be red and for him to squint. I recommend taking him to a family veterinarian for an exam. They may want to stain his cornea to see if there is an abrasion, and recommend eye drops. Good luck.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Golden Retriever

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Eight Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Squinting Eyes & Lethargic

My dog woke up this morning and just seemed very 'sleepy'. She ate and pooped normally, but the more I looked at her, I noticed how bad she was squinting her eyes and that she was not her normal playful self. I can't tell if her eyes are drooping or if she is just squinting. What could be wrong with her?

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Squinting eyes can be caused by pain, infection, or inflammation. If she is squinting in both of her eyes, and also seems lethargic, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, preferably today. They will be able to examine her, see what might be going with her eyes as well as the rest of her, and get any treatment that she needs so that she feels better. I hope that all goes well with her and she is better soon!

July 31, 2020

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Harley

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Pit bull

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Poor Appetite
Squinting

My dog Harley got really sick about a year ago. She was throwing up, wobbling, head tilt, and severe dropping on her right side of her face. We seen a neurologist and she said it was either a brain tumor or infection? She was on antibiotics and other meds and gradually got better. Recently she has stated to squint both eyes and they are both cloudy. Her regular vet said he can’t say for sure why? I am scheduling her to see the nuerologist again, but without a MRI, we can’t get a for sure awnser? Is she in pain? Has anyone else experienced this or has any feedback?

Sept. 15, 2018

Harley's Owner

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Noodle

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Half collie cross boxer mastif

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Squinting

My dog is squinting in both eyes and not a lot of discharge the inner eyelids are partial closed too. We have very recently been to the seaside could this be the cause.

Aug. 19, 2018

Noodle's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are a few causes for squinting including eye injuries, irritants, foreign objects, pain (glaucoma etc…), corneal ulcers among other causes; you could try to remove any discharge with a warm damp cloth and flush the eyes out gently with sterile saline, apply an ophthalmic antibiotic ointment and monitor for improvement. If there is no improvement or other symptoms present visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 19, 2018

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Snickers

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Pit bull

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Squinting Both Eyes Constantly.

I just noticed my dog is Squinting both eyes constantly. What does this mean? There hasn’t been any trauma that I know of, she was normal yesterday today when I came home from work I noticed that she is squinting.

June 20, 2018

Snickers' Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Some reasons that dogs will squint include infection, allergies, trauma to the corneas, or retinal or corneal disease. Since I can't see Snickers, it would be a good idea to have her examined by a veterinarian, as eye disease is best not to be ignored. They'll be able to examine her eyes, determine what is happening, and get any treatment for her that she needs.

June 21, 2018

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Max

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Pomchi

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Eye Squinting

Our dog started squinting in both eyes. Sometimes opens them fully, no discharge or excessive watering. He runs around with our other dogs and is not acting sick and doesn't seem to be in pain. He's not rubbing his eyes excessively. What could be happening to him?

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Dory

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Golden Retriever

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

My dog came home from our usual boarding facility with a head tilt to the left. We took her to the vet who did not have a confident diagnosis due to a lack of definitive symptoms but she suspected idiopathic vestibular disease to be the most likely culprit and advised us to keep an eye out for new or worsening symptoms. I have since noticed her left eye appears noticeably smaller in size than her right, not sure if I’d call it squinting but just smaller In diameter in general. After comparing to older pictures I can confirm this size difference is definitely new. She doesn’t appear to have other major symptoms. Is it still most likely a harmless Vestibular condition or would this added symptom indicate something more serious? A brain tumor or neurological condition are my main concerns that I’m hoping to rule out, as google has made these fears escalate and I know goldens are prone to cancer (my last pup can unfortunately attest to that). 🙁

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Madox

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Rotweiler

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7 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Eye Clouding
Eye Close

My poor little pooch has had this happen 4 times total.1st @4months,2nd @5months,and now @7months. First time both eyes had closed for hours fell alseep and woke up fine. Second time one eye closed other droopy hour went away. Third time today one eye closing half hour back to normal...then again both eyes one eye closed and struggling to keep the one open. Told the vet last booster shot and check up. Told me to record it and show them. Not sure what it could be really he is buddys with the cat but and the play around a bit but that doesnt explain both eyes when he was a baby pup or tonight with one eye closed and drooping on tge other.

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