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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Sunken Eye (Enophthalmos)




Condition Overview

When an eye recedes, the third eyelid usually slides out over the surface of the eyeball and becomes visible.


The dogs eye will appear receded into its socket either marginally, or significantly depending on the circumstances for the recession.


Both eyes may recede when there is a 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 it's socket. Tetanus produces spasms of the retractor muscles of both eyeballs, along with the characteristic appearance of the third eyelids.

When only one eye is involved, the most likely cause is a painful eye. Non-painful 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. After a severe eye injury, the eye can become smaller and sink into its socket.


Diagnosis is made by physical examination.


The treatment of a sunken eye is directed toward the underlying cause.


There is currently no known way to prevent this condition.


Please contact your veterinarian if you suspect your pet may have this condition.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

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