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

Extraocular myositis (EOM) is a relatively uncommon condition. It affects larger breed dogs, particularly Golden Retrievers.

It is painless and the treatment involves immune suppression with steroids.

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

Ace’s story

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.

Swollen eyes

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
  • Dogs are most likely to develop the problem at the age of 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.

by Lindsay Stordahl of ThatMutt.com

Related articles:
Bulging Eyes in Dogs: When Your Dog’s Bulging Eyes Are Not Normal, And You Should Be Concerned

Further reading:
Canine Extraocular polymyositis

Categories: ConditionsExtraocular myositisEye swellingReal-life Stories

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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