My Dog's Eyes Are Bulging

If you are the proud owner of one of the many brachycephalic breeds, such as the pug, Pekingese, Boston terrier, or shih tzu, you are quite familiar with bulging eyes! These dogs are distinguished by their protruding exposed eyes, extremely short pushed-in noses, and small nostrils. You are also likely to be all too familiar with what a nuisance it can be to treat the problems that go along with those exposed eyeballs.

When your dog's eyes appear to be bulging more than you are accustomed to, it is always a reason to be concerned. Take some time to examine both eyes carefully and pay special attention to how willing your dog is to tolerate the examination process.

What to Look For

Put on a pair of rubber gloves. With your dog in a comfortable position in a well-lit room, cradle his head in your hands and look him straight in the eyes. Pay strict attention to the symmetry of his eyes, looking for differences in shape, position, color, sensitivity, and response to light. Look at all of the structures associated with the eyes, including the upper and lower lids, the conjunctiva, or soft pink tissue immediately surrounding the eyeball, the sclera, or white of the eye, iris, pupil, and the third eyelid. The last of these will be difficult to view in a bulging-eyed dog. To get a look at it, place your thumb on the upper lid and, by placing gentle pressure on that lid, force the globe of the eye back into its socket. In the process, the third eyelid should rise passively from the lower corner of the eye closest to the muzzle. Use a bright flashlight to check your dog's pupils' response to light.

In addition, check the anterior chambers of your dog's eyes by shining the flashlight beam from the side, checking for any cloudiness in the forward-most portion (anterior chamber) of each globe. Finally, evaluate your dog's ability to see out of each eye. This test is to check his menace reflex. With the palm of your hand facing your dog, move your hand swiftly from a position about eighteen inches from your dog's eye to within about three inches of your dog's eye. A sighted dog will exhibit a menace reflex by blinking. The absence of that response is a strong indication of reduced or absent vision. Repeat the maneuver a few times to check your result, since some blind dogs may actually blink in response to the movement of air created by your hand. Be cautious, however, as most dogs do not find this procedure easy to tolerate.