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

by Lindsay Stordahl of

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 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.

  4. Your Intention with this article has been very useful for us! Our Molly developed the symptoms yesterday and this article is about the only thing I found unless I search on the term but I wouldn't have known it if it weren't for this! My wife took Molly to the vet today and they were clueless--three different vets! After she showed them this article they agreed this was what it was and started her on Prednisone. They even discounted our bill because we had done the research!

    Anyway, your article has helped at least this dog and her humans!

    Troy, Tammi, and Molly

    1. I'm so glad the article was helpful to you!

    2. Update--after doing A LOT of research after we knew what she had, we determined the Prednisone dose was only 1/2 what it should have been. We increased it and made an appt with an ophthalmologist who confirmed it as soon as she seen Molly and confirmed we did the right thing by increasing the dose. They also put her on Mycophenolate. She was a very experienced dr and sees a lot of different animals here in Louisville, including horses.

      After about 7-8 days her eyes were improving greatly. We went on vacation and a friend watched Molly for us and took care of her meds. When we returned she looked MUCH BETTER and pretty much normal. We are currently weening off the Prednisone but it may take a while.

      Again, we can't thank you enough because it took me quite some time to find your article and NOTHING ELSE on the topic until I knew what it was called--and I'm quite a researcher compared to most people.

      Troy, Tammi and especially Molly

    3. So glad to hear the positive update! <3

    4. troyy0206 -- can you tell me which Louisville Ophthalmologist Dr you saw? I'm looking for a vet with experience in EOM to verify this condition with my own dog. TIA

  5. I am pretty sure my poodle has this. It is saturday night. I don't think I can find a vet until Monday morning. I hope that is ok? She is also sick, vomiting, diarrhea, not eating (except grass?). She also was breed this past week and hopefully is pregnant. Researching Prednisone, it can't be given during pregnancy. Hmmmm, not sure what to do.

    1. Heather, she's having all kinds of problems; PLEASE do find an emergency vet or an on-call vet; surely you have something in your area where you can take her.

  6. Hi, my dog went outside then came in and she had what looked like the white in her eyes coming out in one of her eyes, I just caught and found your story and wanting to ask what you think ? I Put eye drops in her eye, then gave her an allergic pill.

    1. I cannot picture what the eye is doing from the description. The above condition is not an acute thing, though. If I were you I'd see a vet to be on a safe side, based on what your describing.

  7. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. My 6 month old Mini Golden Doodle was diagnosed yesterday by my vet who was stumped. I actually self-diagnosed her on Google and then my vet came to the same conclusion. She then referred me to a Veterinary Eye Institute for treatment so we left with Prednisone and have to return in two weeks to follow up. They mentioned then putting her on another medication that isn't a steroid and said it could be a lifetime journey and there was no way to really tell. Is your dog still on medication? Did the EOM ever reoccur?

  8. Hi Shay, sorry to hear your dog is also having the eye issue. When I put my dog on prednisone and slowly weaned him off over about six months, the issue did not return. He was about 2 years old then and he never had the eye issue again and lived to be 12 years old. No other medication needed for his eyes.

    Let me know if you have other questions.

  9. Anyone ever have a dog that this happened to just one eye? I let my dog out yesterday and he came back with just one eye bulging.. and it seemed to be only the white part of the eye that seemed to be bulging. Within an hour it had gone down so we decided to watch him and it resolved completely by the afternoon. Today he is completely fine no discoloration, drainage, nothing! He is 10 yo rescue, German Shepard mix, 80+pounds, treated for heart worm when we got him last year. He likes to bite at wasps... so I thought maybe that was what happened at first.. thoughts?

  10. This happened to my dog Teddy yesterday! I let him out and he came back with just one eye bulging. It was also just the white part that seemed to be bulging. It started to go down within an hour so we decided to just watch him. Completely gone by the afternoon. No swelling, color change, redness or drainage. Just a bulging white of one eye for a few hours. History: he is an 80+, German Shepherd mix, 10+ years old, treated him for heart worm when we got him a year ago, otherwise healthy.. he likes to bite at wasps (I know... can’t stop him) but I believe it was too cold out for them yesterday. Thoughts?

  11. Hi Kloey, sorry to hear your dog's eye was swollen. I'm not sure if this can happen with just one eye but every case I've heard of has been both eyes and it did not go away quickly as it did with your dog. I would keep a close watch and take your dog to the vet if his eyes continue to sweelup. Hopefully whatever it was does not come back!


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