Why Does My Dog Suddenly Have a Lazy Eye?

Reviewed By Julie •  Updated: 04/04/22 •  6 min read
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Why Does My Dog Suddenly Have a Lazy Eye

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You’re used to seeing your dog’s precious face and his warm, loving eyes. They look OK, but then suddenly they look different. What is it? Has one of your dog’s eyes started looking in a different direction? If so, then may indicate he’s developed an eye condition called lazy eye.

We’ve put together information about lazy eye, how it’s treated, and more. Let’s get started!

What is Lazy Eye?

Lazy eye is a condition called strabismus in dogs. It’s similar to a condition that we can also develop, such as crossed eyes. This is rare in dogs; however, some dog breeds are prone to this condition.

When a dog develops this condition, you may notice that his eyes don’t watch objects together. Instead, one eye may go off in a different direction. While this can appear unsettling, the dog is not in pain or discomfort in most cases. However, it’s essential to determine what has caused lazy eye.

What Happens to Eye Muscles with Strabismus?

Mammals have six muscles that control eye movement, including:

When all of these muscles are working as they should, the dog’s eyes work like normal! The eyes move in the same direction at the same time. However, when one or more of these muscles develops a problem, it can result in a lazy eye. If the retractor muscles have a problem, the dog may develop a lazy eyelid.

A lazy eye can be classified in the following ways, based on the type of misalignment:

Symptoms of Lazy Eye in Dogs

You may notice these symptoms if your dog develops lazy eye:

How Does Lazy Eye Develop in Dogs?

There are several factors that can cause lazy eye in dogs, including the following:


It’s possible that a dog’s lazy eye condition has been inherited from his parents. Some dog breeds are more prone to this condition, including:

Injury to the Eye

Injuries can cause nerve damage that affects the muscles in his eyes. The injuries that can lead to lazy eye can include:

Vestibular Issues

If a dog develops issues with his vestibular system this can lead to lazy eye. The vestibular system is located in the brain, the inner and middle ear. The system controls balance; if a dog develops vestibular problems, he may become dizzy and not be able to walk in a straight line.

Vestibular system issues may cause the following symptoms:

This condition can be caused by trauma, hypothyroidism, tumors, inner ear infections, damage to the skull, and even side effects to antibiotics. There’s also a version of this condition called an idiopathic vestibular syndrome. This means there’s no known cause of the condition. It appears apparently out of nowhere.


This is another condition that can cause lazy eye. This condition can be found in adults but is more common in puppies. Hydrocephalus is a condition that causes fluid buildup in the brain. The condition is common in some dog breeds, including:

The problem is that the excess amount of fluid in the brain puts pressure on the eyes. This can lead to lazy eye.

How is Lazy Eye Treated in Dogs?

There are different ways lazy eye can be treated in dogs.

1. Exercise

Treatment depends on what’s caused the condition. However, if the lazy eye is inherited and there are no underlying health conditions, then the vet may prescribe exercises. These exercises work to strengthen the eye muscles.

One exercise involves holding a finger in front of your dog’s face, then moving the finger toward his nose. That’s it! You and your dog can do this exercise at any time. However, it can take time for exercises to work. So, you’ll need to have patience as your dog’s eyes strengthen.

2. Treatment of Injuries

When an injury causes lazy eye, the vet must first take care of the injury. Then they can consider how to best treat the dog’s lazy eye.

If your dog has some vestibular issues, they may prescribe anti-inflammatories to help cure the problem. Sometimes the lazy eye may be cured by immediate care of the injury that’s caused it.

3. Periodic Monitoring

Whether your dog is prone to inherited lazy eye or has developed the condition in the past, monitoring his eyes can help spot the problem if it appears again. You can also ask the vet to check your fur baby’s eyes during regular checkups.

4. Treating Underlying Disease

If an underlying health issue has caused lazy eye, then the first step is to treat this condition as soon as possible. Treatments depend on the severity of the problem. For example, fluid in the brain caused by hydrocephalus must first be drained. The vet may prescribe anti-inflammatories or water pills to reduce the fluid.

If the condition is left untreated, it’s possible the damage to the eye muscles may require surgery.

Summing It Up

If you believe your dog is suffering from lazy eye, then it’s necessary to make an appointment with the vet. The vet may be able to find the underlying cause and treat it using medications. This can sometimes alleviate the symptoms and cure lazy eye. However, there are times when surgery may be required. Only a vet can make these determinations.

So, be sure to get your fur baby to the vet if you notice one of his eyes looking in one direction and his other eye looking in a completely different direction!


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Julie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she studied Animal science. Though contrary to the opinion of her parents she was meant to study pharmacy, but she was in love with animals especially cats. Julie currently works in an animal research institute (NGO) in California and loves spending quality time with her little cat. She has the passion for making research about animals, how they survive, their way of life among others and publishes it. Julie is also happily married with two kids.