Big eyes are often a desirable trait in dogs depending on the personal view of the owner. Most people are used to seeing dogs — especially small breeds — with large, round eyes. Larger dogs typically do not have remarkable eyes, and when owners notice their pet’s eyes are beginning to actually bulge outward, they are often alarmed and puzzled. Sometimes veterinarians are not familiar with the rare condition.
What is Extraocular Myositis
Extraocular myositis — or simply EOM— results from inflammation of muscles around a dog’s eye. EOM is rare but more common in larger dogs, particularly large sporting breeds. The inflammation of the muscle tissue forces the eyes forward from the eye socket giving the dog a creepy, bulging fixed stare.
Myositis is a general term referring to “muscle inflammation.” There are many types of myositis, some affecting humans. Extraocular myositis refers specifically to the muscles of the eyes and should not be confused with other inflammatory conditions. Also, other conditions such as trauma or infection might cause protruding eyeballs. A veterinarian should be consulted.
Although the animal may not show signs of distress, double vision may be present, and the dog may adjust by orienting its head to try to compensate for double vision. The common signs of disease or infection such as a discharge from the eye or loss of appetite are not usually present.
Indeed, dogs with EOM may continue to be playful, but trip over objects and bump into furniture because of compromised vision. EOM is most common in female dogs less than two years old. Golden Retrievers seem to be unusually susceptible. The condition is usually due to allergies or some other autoimmune response that causes swelling of the specific muscle tissue. Genetics does not seem to be a factor.
Extraocular Myositis Diagnosis and Treatment
Waiting for the condition to go away is not advised, and a veterinarian’s advice should be sought quickly, as other eye conditions can result in permanent damage. As mentioned, some vets may not be familiar with EOM since it is rare, and the owner may want to print and provide an appropriate article from the Internet just in case the veterinarian needs a resource.
Diagnosis can be accomplished by biopsy of the muscle tissue or blood tests to verify EOM and rule out other problems. Some veterinarians may diagnose the dog based on appearance and information provided by the owner. The treatment of choice is prednisone, a corticosteroid that is effective in reducing swelling, but other medications are effective. The dosage and length of recovery can vary widely among animals, but return to normalcy can occur within a week or less. Longer recovery times are common.
Following the veterinarian’s directions is important, as the dosage of prednisone should not be suddenly stopped. Recurrence of EOM is not uncommon, but recovery is generally successful without lasting negative effects. Some severe cases may require surgery to correct vision.
Bulging eyes are normal in some dogs, but may be a sign of several conditions. Extraocular myositis — EOM — is rare and sometimes misdiagnosed. It is most common in large, young, female dogs. A veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible if bulging eyes appear. EOM is usually treated with prednisone, and recovery is generally complete without lasting damage.