This is an emergency. Dislocation of one or both eyeballs is a common
problem in dogs with large, bulging eyes
such as Boston Terriers, Pugs, Pekingese, Maltese, and some spaniels. It is
generally caused by dog bites and other types of trauma. Struggling with these
dogs while attempting to hold and restrain them for any reason can cause the
eye to bulge out so far that the eyelids snap
shut behind the eyeball. This prevents the eyeball from returning to its socket
and may pull on and damage the optic nerve
Treatment: A dislocated eyeball is an extremely serious condition that may
cause loss of vision. Shortly after the eye dislocates, swelling behind the eye
makes it extremely difficult to return the eyeball to its normal position.
Proceed at once to the nearest veterinary hospital. Carry the dog, if possible.
Cover the eye with a wet cloth. Prevent the dog from pawing at the eye.
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If it appears that veterinary help will not be available within 30 minutes,
consider attempting to reposition the eyeball yourself. This requires at least
two people: one to restrain and hold the dog and the other to reposition the
eye. Lubricate the surface of the eye with K-Y or petroleum jelly and lift the
eyelids out and over the eyeball, while maintaining gentle inward pressure on
the globe with a wad of moist cotton. If you’re not successful, make no further
attempt. Seek professional assistance. Even if you can replace the eyeball, you
should visit your veterinarian for follow-up care, because the delicate tissues
may be damaged.
After the eye has been replaced, your veterinarian may suggest a surgical
procedure to prevent a recurrence.
Other Causes of a Bulging Eye
Abscesses, hematomas, and tumors in the retrobulbar space behind the eye can
push the globe forward and cause bulging.
A retrobulbar abscess (an
abscess behind the eyeball) is an extremely painful condition that comes on
rapidly. The face around the eye is swollen and the globe is extremely tender
to finger pressure. Dogs experience great difficulty opening and closing their
mouths. A retrobulbar abscess must be surgically drained.
Retrobulbar hematomas (blood clots behind the eyeball) also develop
suddenly. They occur with head injuries and can appear spontaneously in
conjunction with some bleeding disorders.
Tumors in the retrobulbar space produce a gradual bulging. Unlike the two
conditions just described, they are relatively painless.
can lead to increased eye size and protrusion.
Enophthalmos (Sunken Eye)
When an eye recedes, the third
eyelid usually slides out over the surface of the eyeball and becomes
visible. The treatment of a sunken eye is directed toward the underlying
Both eyeballs may recede when there is loss of substance in the fat pads
behind the eyes. This occurs with severe dehydration
or rapid weight loss.
There is a retractor muscle, which, when it goes into spasm, pulls the
eyeball back into its socket. Tetanus produces spasms of the retractor muscles
of both eyeballs, along with the characteristic appearance of the third
When only one eye is involved, the most likely cause is a painful eye.
Nonpainful causes include nerve damage following a neck injury or a middle ear
infection. With this condition, called Horner’s syndrome, the pupil is
small on the affected side. Finally, after a severe eye injury, the eye can
become smaller and sink into its socket.
WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"