Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Whites Of My Dog’s Eyes Are Swollen: Extraocular Myositis In Dogs

by Lindsay Stordahl of ThatMutt.com

I want to share my dog’s experience with extraocular myositis (also called polymyositis) in the hope that it might help someone else get proper treatment for his or her dog.

According to the canine eye specialist who eventually diagnosed my dog, extraocular myositis is caused by an allergic reaction that makes the muscles in the back of the dog’s eyes begin to swell.

The first symptoms

When my Lab mix Ace was around 18 months old, he looked a little different one morning. I couldn’t quite figure out why, and I said to my husband, “I think Ace’s eyes are swollen.”

The change was so subtle that I thought I was imagining it. 

Or maybe my dog’s eyes had always been that way, and I just hadn’t noticed.

It’s hard to explain, but the white parts of his eyes were ever so slightly “puffy.”

Ace was acting normal, though, so I still thought I might be imagining things. This was on a Friday.

The next day, I knew my dog’s eyes were definitely swollen. 

You could even see the whites of his eyes were “higher” than the colored part of his eye. He was beginning to look like a cartoon dog, like The Simpson’s dog.

By Monday, my dog’s eyes were really “bugged out” to the point that it was disrupting his vision. He was bumping into things and couldn’t find his toys.

I didn’t get a good photo of him when his eyes were the most swollen, but a reader sent me this photo of her boxer and gave me permission to use it.

Creepy, right? Imagine if that were your dog.

When the vet is stumped

Ace’s vet took a look at him that Monday and did not know what was wrong. She said she had never seen anything like it, assumed it was some sort of allergy and ended up sending us home with some eye drops.

After a day or two, it was obvious the drops weren’t helping.
So, back to the vet.

Consulting with an eye specialist

This time, Ace’s vet had done as much research as she could on the issue and had spoken with a canine eye specialist who lived 200 miles away. I consulted with the specialist over the phone as well, and she was certain my dog had extraocular myositis.

This is what I learned about extraocular myositis from her:
  • It is very rare, but most common in golden retrievers and other retrieving breeds
  • It is almost always found in dogs ages 12 to 24 months
  • It is most likely caused by an allergic reaction of some sort; dogs that get it have usually had other allergies throughout their lives
  • Many of the dogs that get it tend to have it a second or third time, but rarely again after that
All of the above were true for my dog.

Treating a dog’s extraocular myositis

We treated Ace’s condition with prednisone to decrease the swelling. His eyes went back to normal in about two weeks, but I slowly weaned him off the prednisone over the next few months.

The side effects he experienced from the prednisone included extreme hunger and thirst, decreased energy and a very visible decrease in muscle mass.

Overall, I learned there is not a lot of information on why extraocular myositis occurs, but it was nice to know the issue was not life threatening and not all that serious.

It just looks bad!

I never did figure out what initially caused my dog’s eyes to flare up. The vet said it could’ve been an allergic reaction to anything; I guess I’ll never know.

I hope none of your dogs ever have to deal with extraocular myositis, but if they do, it helps to know the problem looks much worse than it really is. And thankfully, it is fairly easy and inexpensive to treat.

My dog did not experience any permanent damage to his eyes, and once he was off the prednisone, he quickly re-built his muscle mass.

If you have any questions about extraocular myositis, feel free to reach out and I can share more about my dog’s experience.

Of course, I’m not a vet.

For diagnosis and treatment, you’ll want to talk with a professional.


Lindsay Stordahl maintains the blog ThatMutt.com. ThatMutt.com where she writes about her dog Ace and topics related to dog training, dog walking and dog adoption.

Articles by Lindsay:
Knowledge Is Your Friend: Brittni's ACL Injury 
How To Help Your Dog Overcome Separation Anxiety
Dog Treat Ingredients – Beware!  

Editor's note: There is a FB page dedicated to extraocular polymyositis in dogs.

Do you have a story to share?

Your story can help others, maybe even save a life!

What were the first signs you noticed? How did you dog get diagnosed? What treatment did/didn't work for you? What was your experience with your vet(s)? How did you cope with the challenges?

Email me and I'll be happy to publish your story.



  1. I didn't know there was a Facebook page about this. Good to know!

  2. Hi Lindsay,

    Our Golden has this. Just curious what dosage of prednisone you had to give your lab? I assume it goes by weight?

  3. Hi, sorry to hear about your golden. My dog was 65 pounds at the time. Yes, it goes by weight. We started with a higher dose of 80mg per day for a month straight. Then weaned him off very slowly by decreasing the dose in half every month for 6 months.