Why are my dog’s eyes swollen?

My dog Ace is being treated for polymyositis, also called extraocular myositis. He is the black dog in the photos. The condition is caused by an allergic reaction where the dog’s extraocular muscles in the back of the eyes swell.

As a result of the swelling, the whites of the eyes bulge and make the dog look really goofy as you can see in the bottom photo of the golden retriever, submitted by a reader.

I wrote about my dog’s swollen eyes a few months ago. I’ve gotten a surprising amount of search engine traffic from people desperately looking for a reason why their dog’s eyes would be swollen. I was in the same position. With polymyositis, the eyes can flare up so quickly it’s scary.

When I first noticed Ace’s swollen eyes, I knew nothing about polymyositis – either did his regular veterinarian or the on-call person at our local emergency vet clinic.

The good news is polymyositis is not life threatening. I spoke with a canine eye specialist who reassured me that although this condition would take awhile to treat, Ace would recover just fine. It doesn’t really affect the dog much except when it’s at its worst.

Before I treated Ace, his eyes were so swollen he had a hard time seeing. He was depending on one eye because it was too difficult for him to see straight when his eyes were bulging out in opposite directions.

Black lab mix with swollen eyes, called polymyositis or extraocular myositis

When my dog’s eyes were totally bulged, I didn’t take any pictures. I was too worried about my dog at the time. At its worst, the whites of both eyes were swollen all the way around and under the eyelids.

All the research I’ve come across says young retrieving breeds are the most likely to develop polymyositis, which could be a reaction to anything – grass, carpet material, dust, wheat – who knows.

It’s most common in female golden retrievers under 3 years old. Vets can do an allergy test to determine possible allergens once the dog is off medication.

The specialist I’ve worked with said to go with a skin test because it is the most reliable and effective. A blood test can’t detect the same information.

For anyone who has a dog with swollen eyes, take your dog to a vet. You won’t find the answers you need by searching Google.

I can give you answers only based on what I’ve learned, but I am not a vet. And if your vet has not heard of polymyositis or extraocular myositis (mine had not), then find a canine eye specialist who can give you the answers you need.

Black lab mix with swollen eyes, called polymyositis or extraocular myositis

My dog has polymyositis

Here is my experience with polymyositis with my 65-pound, 2-year-old black lab mix:

Ace was diagnosed with polymyositis around October 1, 2008. He was on a heavy dose of Prednisone (80 mg daily), which decreased the swelling in his eyes dramatically after about 11 days.

Two weeks later I decreased the dose by half as told, but his eyes swelled again. I repeated the process, returning to the heavy dose. His eyes went back to normal, so after another two weeks I decreased the dose again. Like the first time, his eyes swelled again.

Next, Ace was on the heavy dose (80 mg daily) for a month straight. He is now in the process of slowly being weaned off the Prednisone.

By slowly, I mean slowly. Just to make sure his eyes won’t flare up again, I am cutting his daily dose in half each month over a six-month period. His eyes are not fully back to normal, but hopefully they will continue to improve with the Prednisone.

The chances of the polymyositis reoccurring are much less likely the longer he stays on the Pred. Luckily, Prednisone is not an expensive drug, even without pet insurance.

Golden retriever with swollen eyes due to polymyositis or extraocular myositis

Polymyositis often reoccurs two or three times per dog over several years, but the specialist I worked with said she has never seen it reoccur more than three times. The longer a dog is on Prednisone, the less likely it is for the myositis to come back.

In all cases, dogs must be weaned off Pred slowly. Prednisone is a steroid, so when a dog is on a high does, his body stops producing the natural steroid hormone called cortisone.

If a dog is suddenly taken off Pred, his body won’t have enough cortisone, and he will be vulnerable to infections. In extreme cases, he could go into shock or a coma.

Some of the side effects to Prednisone are nasty. My dog is a totally different dog on the drug. But the benefits of the drug are worth it in Ace’s case. Now that he’s on a lesser dose, the side effects have started to decrease already. Here are some side effects I noticed:

My dog was always hungry

This dog was ravenous. Ace is normally not food crazy. Before Prednisone, he would skip meals if he wasn’t hungry. On Prednisone, he ate his food in seconds even though I increased his meals by a cup or two a day.

He stole from the counters and begged like he’d never eaten in his life. My dog ate from the litter box, raided the garbage, tried to eat all the snow in our yard and ate the pockets from my jeans and coat (where I’d kept some treats).

My dog was always thirsty.

My dog has always been obsessed with water. But add the drug and he’s even worse. I had to ration his water because he would literally never stop drinking. This dog was finding water in all sorts of places and drinking it – entire toilet bowls, tipping over our water glasses, licking the snow off my shoes, etc.

My dog had to pee all the time.

Yup, as in every hour. And this dog had to go a lot!

My dog was always tired.

Some dogs actually get more energy on Pred. Ace was very mellow. He heeled better, chilled out a little during agility and was more content to just lie around the house. It was actually kinda nice.

My dog became more vulnerable to infections.

Because of the way Pred works with the body’s immune system, Ace developed an infection on his stomach that probably started as something as tiny as a scratch. The Prednisone suppresses a dog’s immune system. This infection required another trip to the vet and antibiotics.

Make sure your vet knows your dog is on the drug before she gives him live vaccinations because your dog’s immune system will not be functioning normally.

My dog experienced muscle atrophy – a decrease in his muscle mass.

I first noticed Ace’s muscle mass decreasing in his back. His spine stuck out even though he was eating more and exercising less. His stomach and chest were bloated from water retention. And then his bones started to show in his head and face as he started developing “Pred head” where the muscle around his head also decrease.

Dogs with Pred head have an odd shaped head with the sides sunken in and the bone sticking out on top. Ace’s head was starting to look almost triangular. It was awful because I know people were thinking, “All she does is run that dog and not feed him enough.”

My dog was always starving and he looked so thin. The good thing is the dog’s body returns to normal once he’s off Pred, and Ace has already started to improve.

Should I give my dog Imuron (Azathioprine)?

For some dogs, Prednisone does not take care of the polymyositis. One option is to give them a drug called Imuron (also called Azathioprine). This drug is more powerful than Pred, so make sure you understand the side effects before giving it to your dog.

I decided even though Ace’s eyes are not perfect, I would rather continue with the Pred and not go with Imuran.

The side effects of Imuran are not worth it in his case. If his condition were life threatening or if he were an older dog, it might be different. But he doesn’t even know his eyes are swollen and he is a 2-year-old dog with several years ahead.

Some potential side effects of Imuran include high risk of infections, nausea, vomiting, hair loss and an increased risk of developing cancerous growths.

If your dog has swollen eyes, make sure to take him to a vet and get a professional’s opinion. I

f you think your dog has polymyositis, feel free to send me a picture, and I can tell you right away if that’s how my dog’s eyes looked. I can answer any questions based on what I’ve gone through with Ace, but for treatment and diagnosis, consult with a canine eye specialist.

Also, see my previous post on my dog’s swollen eyes.

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112 thoughts on “Why are my dog’s eyes swollen?”

  1. Lindsay, that was a very informative post. You definitely got all the side effects of pred covered! Let me reassure you that all of the side effects pretty much go away after the dog is off of the pred medication. The only one that Dutch still has is the begging at the table. Unfortunately, we probably were too sympathetic to him and reinforced it by feeding him scraps from the table. Maybe some day I will write you a guest post for you about Dutch’s experience with immune mediated thrombocytopenia, prednisone and azathioprine.

  2. I’m glad to hear that Ace is getting better. Hopefully it won’t take too long for a full recovery. Thanks for all the info. I never heard of this disease before.

  3. Lindsay Stordahl

    Thanks everyone!

    Patti, I’m glad to hear the side effects go away. I would love if you wrote a guest post whenever you find the time. 🙂

  4. Wow, this is scary. I’m glad you put that info out there, though, hopefully the next person will find your posts and not have to go through what you did. The prednisone sounds horrible. Give Ace an extra hug from me!

  5. Ace’s condition was scary…I know because Princess had a similar experience. Her area around the eye was swollen and her eye bulged because of the swelling. She had had previous episodes of photo sensitivity…hid in dark corners, wouldn’t let us near her left eye. The eye specialist thinks it is myositis but isn’t sure until a CT scan or ultrsound is done of the area during an episode. Has anyone had these symptoms in his/her dog? I want to use natural immune boosters not Prdnisone, if possible. Anyone with ideas. Kathy

  6. Lindsay Stordahl

    That doesn’t sound like the exact same thing Ace has. He wasn’t sensitive to light and his eyes did not seem to be in pain. I would talk to your vet about other treatments besides Prednisone. Prednisone is not so bad when the dog is getting a low dose, but I understand why you would want to consider other possibilities.

  7. Great information! Thank you so much for sharing this. You have a beautiful dog and I do hope and pray Ace is feeling and doing much better.

  8. Lindsay,
    My 6-month-old Golden Retriever, Addie, recently started showing similar symptoms, and I am hoping that you can give me some input. Five days ago (Friday), when I got home from work, I noticed that Addie’s eyes suddenly looked a little bit goofy (for lack of a better explanation). My husband thought that I was crazy when I suggested that her eyes appeared to be bulging out, but the next morning he really noticed a difference. I Googled some common eye problems with dogs, but nothing seemed to meet the description of Addie’s eyes. I took her to the vet on Monday, and he told me that she probably just has allergies, and he prescribed eye drops. Today is Wednesday, and I have been giving her the drops three times per day since Monday afternoon, and there has been no improvement. I had mentioned my findings of extraocular myositis to my vet, but he just brushed my comment aside, so either I am a total hypochondriac, or he has very little knowledge of this condition. Addie’s eyes are both bulging out, and the white part is extremely swollen. She is not in any pain, and she continues to be her loving, playful self. She hasn’t shown any other allergy symptoms such as sinus problems, itchiness, or swollen face, so I really have no idea what is wrong with her. Do her symptoms match Ace’s? Also, do you know if extraocular myositis is very rare? Thank you so much for your help. I hope that Ace is doing well!

  9. Lindsay Stordahl

    Lacey, I am not a vet but based on what you said I can almost 100 percent guarantee you that your dog has extraocular myositis (also called polymyositis)

    The EXACT same thing that is happening to you with your dog and vet is what happened to Ace and I. The symptoms you describe are identical. My vet misdiagnosed Ace with plain old allergies and gave him eye drops. The drops did not help even after several days, and he was given “stronger” drops. Those did nothing. After more research, my vet learned about the myositis. She had never heard of it before and said it is extremely rare. She spoke with a dog eye specialist who I later talked to. Extraocular myositis is related to allergies. It actually is an intense allergic reaction, but eye drops will not begin to fix the problem.

    If your vet does not take you seriously when you mention the myositis, then go and talk to a different vet or find a specialist. Let me know if you can’t find anyone, and I will email you the phone number of the specialist who helped me.

  10. Thank you so much for your advice. I took Addie back to the vet today, and he prescribed Temaril-P (which includes Prednisolone), but not because he suspected polymyositis. He basically explained that it was a mixture of medicines that can cure many different ailments. He gave me a two week supply of this “cure-all” medicine and told me to bring her back if she isn’t better by then. I am really not satisfied with his response, especially after reading your posts, and I would like a second opinion. Could you email the contact information for Ace’s eye specialist to me? I am concerned about letting this go for another two weeks. Were you able to find anything out about the longterm effects of polymyositis when left untreated? I am really worried about waiting too long to take action.

  11. Lindsay Stordahl

    Well I can tell you my 60-pound dog needed an 80mg dose of Prednisone daily for about two months to help the swelling stay down. I don’t think you need to be too concerned about the long-term effects other than it looks bad and it might affect the dog’s vision slightly until the problem is cleared up. But again, I am not a vet. I’ll get that contact information to you. I really encourage you to get a second opinion no matter what vet it is. Your current vet shouldn’t have ignored what you were saying just because he didn’t know anything about polymyositis.

  12. A Different Cynthia

    I’m so thankful for this information. My dog was just diagnosed with extraocular polymyositis yesterday. I Googled it, and found this site, which gives me more information than the 20-minute real time with the specialist. (I had to go to a vet hospital to see a specialist, as my vet wasn’t sure what to make of it. My vet is great, but hadn’t seen this before.)

    My dog is a 2 1/2 year boxer/lab mix. She just started having the problem about 10 days ago. She is on a 40 mg dose of prednisone per day for two weeks. I’m thankful for the list of possible side effects, so I will know what to look for.

    I’d be happy to send you a photo of my dog last week. Like you, I was worried about my dog and didn’t think to take a picture of her eyes when they were completely bugged out three days after the photo.

    How do I send the photo?

  13. Lindsay Stordahl

    Hi Cynthia,

    The one thing I recommend is not to wean your dog off the Prednisone too quickly. I’d keep her on the high dose for a good four weeks. I tried weaning Ace off the medicine too soon more than once and his eyes swelled up again. When I kept him on the high dose for a good four weeks and then cut the dose in half every month after that, his eyes have remained normal.

    You can send a picture to Lindsay@thatmutt.com. I’d post it on my blog if that’s OK with you. Thanks.

  14. My dog’s eye suddenly started bulging out around the iris tonight. We’ve called the vet and sent her pictures, and she thinks it’s conjunctivitis. We’re picking up medicine for him. I can’t find anything online under conjunctivitis that comes anywhere close to what his eye looks like. Was Ace’s eye red when it started popping out? Can I send you a pic to compare it to what Ace’s looked like in the beginning? It looks awful. You can email me directly, and I’ll attach the photo. Thanks.

  15. Lindsay Stordahl

    The whites of Ace’s eyes were swollen exactly like the golden retriever’s eyes in the top picture of this blog. His eyes were not red. Send a photo to Lindsay@thatmutt.com.

    If your dog’s eyes are red, there’s a good chance it’s conjunctivitis (pink eye) or cherry eye, not polymyositis. But you should have your vet see more than just photos to make sure. Or get a second opinion.

  16. Hey guys,

    I don’t want to be a downer on this thread, but for all of you administering predisone at such high doses for extended periods of time, you’re taking years off your dogs life. Do a Google on the side effects of steroids on dogs. This medicine is over-prescribed by lazy vets, and while it produces results, it isn’t curing the problem. In the meantime, you are slowly killing your dog’s liver, thyroid, etc., etc. If your dog has an allergy, eliminate the alergin.

  17. Lindsay Stordahl

    Hi Rick, thanks for your opinion. I disagree.

    No matter what drug your vet prescribes for your dog, you should do your own research or get a second opinion. If you do not trust your vet, then you need to get a new vet. Vets are not lazy. People become vets because they care about animals. It is a lot of work to become a vet, work that includes years and years of school and hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans for most.

    Prednisone is a strong drug with many side effects and no one should give it to their animal or take it themselves without knowing the side effects. For polymyositis, it is the best option.

  18. Hi. I don’t have a picture, but i have a Boston terrier that was born from my dog’s litter three years ago. My mother decided to keep him because he couldn’t see. It started when he was about four weeks old. He wouldn’t look in the right direction when the other puppies would, and then when he started to get out and about, he would walk into walls. We know he can see shadows, but it wasn’t until he was around 6 weeks old that we were able to tell that his eyes look in different directions, and they are really white.

    I don’t know if they bulge because of his breed. The bulging-eyes look is common, but when he was a puppy the vet told us that he probably had some kind of spinal injury while being born, and that is why he is like that. But he has no problems walking or moving at all. Another thing he told us at a latter time was that it looked like he was born without the lenses in his eyes. Now I wonder if he really has polymyositis and not the things the vet said. But since it only makes it where he can’t see, and he has no other health problems, I don’t know. His eyes actually look a lot like that Golden Retriever dog in the picture. But if it’s curable, I would like to know why all these years we have been led to believe it was some kind of birth defect and permanent. Do you know where I could get more information about this type of disease?

  19. Lindsay Stordahl

    Hi Kim, thank you for the information. If you can find a vet that specializes in allergies or eyes, he or she will know about polymyositis. Since my regular vet hadn’t heard of myositis and from what I hear from others, their vets haven’t either, don’t count on the average vet knowing what it is. There is not a lot of info out there online, which is why I wrote about it on my blog.

    From what you’ve said about your dog though, it sounds like he probably has something else. Boston terriers are meant to have bulged eyes, and polymyositis is most common in retrieving breeds at about 1-2 years old. It is an allergic reaction to something and does not affect their vision except when the eyes are very bulged and pushed out in opposite directions. Then it’s hard for the dog to see straight. Mine tried to turn his head and depend on one eye at a time.

    I recommend you go and talk to more than one vet if you are unhappy with what your current vet is telling you.

  20. Hi there.

    My 10-month Doberman bitch has exactly the same looking thing as the dogs in the picture. I’m convinced that’s what’s she’s got. I’m going to see an eye specialist on Monday.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I hope your dog is back to normal soon! Although this takes a few months to treat, you can feel better knowing it is nothing too serious.

  21. Thanks for this information. I have had my dog to my vet twice, and she is stumped. She has been treating him for conjunctivitis, but nothing has helped. Archie’s eyes are bulging just like the dogs in the pictures. The onset was sudden. I plan to call my vet with this information on Monday. She tried consulting with an eye specialist, but none were working this weekend.

  22. Barbara Taylor

    Comforting to read the history of Ace and know there is a “rainbow.”

    I have a 10-month-old yellow Lab and after the vet was clueless as to why Oliver’s eyes were bulging, I was sent to a canine optomologist specialist who diagnosed his condition as extraocular polymyositis. He is on day two of treatment with the prednisone.

    The pictures of Ace confirmed what Oliver has come down with, and I thank you. I hope Ace is on his way to complete recovery after the setbacks.

  23. Lindsay Stordahl

    Glad I could help! Ace has been just fine for over two years now. Don’t worry, your dog will be OK too. It just looks bad.

  24. I wish I had found this a long time ago! Our older golden retriever looked exactly like the one in the picture. He had been on a long line in the yard, and he ran to the end of it, snapping his collar. His eyes bulged out terribly, and we rushed him to the vet. They had no idea, and basically said, if it gets worse, bring him back.

    About a month later, while wearing a harness, he came inside with the same bulging eyes! I ended up giving him Benadryl based on an Internet tip, combined with his symptoms, and it worked! His eyes were back to normal within about six hours.

    Every time it happened from then on, out came the Benadryl (children’s bubblegum flavored).

    The dosage for Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) as an antihistamine is 2-4 mg/kg every 8-12 hours by mouth.

  25. Lindsay Stordahl

    I’m glad you found something to help your dog. Benadryl did not take care of the problem for Ace.

  26. Lindsay,
    Thanks again for your blog. Archie’s vet agreed extraocular myositis fit with his symptoms and put him on 1.5 mg/kg of prednisone and within four days his eyes looked normal. It was great. The problem is his eyes start to bulge when we try to taper the prednisone, and he already has “pred head.” The azathioprine 2 mg/kg added to about 1 mg/kg pred is not enough to reverse the bulging eyes, so my vet recommends I make an apointment with the opthamologist tomorrow since Archie’s is the first case she has ever seen. Archie has many of the symptoms you said Ace had with prednisone – big appetite, weight loss, drinking all the time, lethargy and muscle loss. How much did Ace weigh when he was on 80 mg/day? Archie’s muscle loss and weekness are a concern, and the vet hopes that the specialist will know of some other options for my boy.

  27. Lindsay Stordahl

    I had to wean Ace off the pred very, very slowly as you read in the post. I don’t think he actually lost a ton of weight. He just looked goofy. The muscle mass does come back fairly quickly once they are off the pred. I think the specialist will have some good suggestions for you.

  28. My 6-year-old Lab has mmm and very rapidly lost a lot of his facial muscles. He has been on prednisone for one week and has lost more facial muscles on the meds. I have read post here that the muscles will return once off pred, but my vet says otherwise. He is on 100 mg daily and weighs 120 lbs. I have always given him supplements to support his immunity – fish oils, vitamins A, B, C, E, selenium and probiotics while sick. Pred is to suppress his immunity, not sure if I should continue or not with the supplements and if there is anything I can do to help him regain his muscle mass. He lost his muscles in the last week before the meds very rapidly. I appreciate any and all advice. Thanks.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You may want to get a second or third opinion from a vet. I am not a vet, but I can tell you that my dog was on Prednisone for about seven months and he lost a lot of muscle mass in his head and back. He looked very awkward. His muscle mass came back within about two weeks of being off the pred. I’ve always heard that the muscle mass comes back for other dogs as well.

  29. My dog karma 10 month old yellow lab is having issues with the whites of her eyes being really puffy and my vet has never heard of this I wanna try an eye specialist… I just don’t want her in pain. Is this something they can cure if she has it?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      If your dog has polymyositis, Prednisone will help it go away over an extended period of a few months. The chances of the myositis coming back are small after that. This isn’t a cure, because it is an allergic reaction to something. But in most cases, once treated it doesn’t come back.

  30. Hi Lindsay!
    We recently got our yellow lab (11 months old). We picked her up on a Thursday, made a vet appointment for her to get spayed on the Friday, and she was in heat on the Saturday! The last couple of weeks have been interesting! To make life even more interesting, about three days ago we noticed that her eyes were unusually glossy (watery). Today, however is a different story! Her eyes are bulging out of her head. She appears very skittish and has a hard time settling down. Do you recall if Ace became agitated/skittish with his bulgy eyes? As it is now the weekend, we’ll have to wait until Monday to have Ann-Dee checked out. I’ll definitely be taking your web-site with us when we see the vet.

    1. No, Ace had no change in his energy or personality when his eyes were bulged. But since you have only had your dog for very long, maybe she is still adjusting to her new environment and the eye issue is making it harder for her to settle down. Poor girl! If she indeed had polymyositis, know that it is not as serious as it looks and she will be just fine.

  31. So Andie was diagnosed yesterday with extraocular myositis. Thanks to your blog as well as photos of Andie before , the young veterinarian who had never seen or heard of this contacted a specialist. We waited for the opthamologist to come to the hospital (apparently this is so rare that he wanted to see it for himself!) Andie has started her prednisone therapy as of last night. As she weighs 60 lbs she has been given 55 mgs. to be taken 2x daily (every 12 hours). She will see the specialist in 10 days to assess the dosage. Her prescription is for 21 days. Like you, they assure us that she’s going to be fine. That being said – we are already seeing the side effects of the 2 dosages of prednisone. She is panting (something she didn’t really do before), wanting water of of course she has to pee more. I’m extremely nervous for the next month or so. According to the hospital Lindsay, it is thanks to you and Ace’s story we were able to catch Andie’s case in its early stages. I was wondering as Andie is only 11 months old, we’ve been training her (long walks etc) should we continue to exercise her? – I’m worried about the weight loss/muscle loss etc.

  32. That would be a question for your vet. But I would say keep exercising her as long as she wants to go. Ace had a decrease in energy on the pred, but some dogs have an increase in energy. Plus, exercise will keep her muscles stronger, despite the atrophy. The constant thirst and constant need to pee was annoying (for both me and Ace!). I didn’t get up to let him out in the middle of the night, and he never had an accident. But looking back, I wish I would’ve gotten up to let him out once each night. He had to pee for like two minutes every morning. Poor guy.

  33. Hi Lindsay,
    We’re feeling discouraged. It will be a week on prednisone and Andie’s eyes look the same. She’s anxious. She’s thirsty, hungry, has loose bowel movements, looks gaunt already. She looks so unhappy. She appears to not want anything to do with us (other than food and drink). I guess I’m looking for support and encouragement. I thought we’d see quicker results.

  34. If it is in fact polymyositis, she should be OK. Just give it some time. Ace’s eyes went back to normal faster, but maybe he had a milder reaction. He was also on a smaller dose – 80 mg daily vs. 110. He was very mellow and tired when on the prednisone too. Don’t take it personally, your dog is just feeling drowsy. This is only temporary. Try not to feel bad, as our dogs mirror our feelings and actions so much. Try to stay positive. Take her for short walks and do the things she enjoys.

    Once she is off the pred, her body will get back to normal.

    I hope she feels better soon! If you don’t see improvements, try to find a second opinion from another specialist. I know that’s hard because there are not very many canine eye specialists. But you want to make sure the diagnosis is correct.

  35. I know the dates on this story are from 2008, however those photos look just like my dogs eye were yesterday. I must say I was hysterical and took him to the emergency animal hosptial. I was told it was called chemosis. I am unsure if these two mean the same thing. They told me it was from an allergic reaction, but to what no one will know. It started in his L eye and once given a steroid injection the swelling went down significantly. His floppy part of his ears however are still swollen and heavy. After I was under the impression this shot had worked and the allergic reaction was over with I noticed his R eye start to swell. I am extremely nervous in regards to this because just as in your post I was told they can flare up again. It happened so quickly. My golden retriever (Koby) has a history of allergies. Nothing ever this severe though. Usually he is just always so itchy and constantly scratching. Koby has hypothyroid and also has a history with seizures. His is on 2 different medications to control both. I get extremely nervous in regards to pumping medication into my dog. I was told by my vet about prednisone I however do not want it to negatively impact him. Has Ace had any flare ups since this post was written? How did you ween him off the pred or does he still take it? Thank you so much for writing this story and I hope to hear back from you.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      From what I understand, chemosis is a general term that includes many kinds of eye irritations that result in swelling. So, everything from conjunctivitis (pink eye) to what my dog had to other things.

      It sounds like your dog has something different than what my dog had because my dog’s ears were not affected. If your dog doesn’t get better soon I would recommend you see a canine eye specialist or speak with one over the phone as I did.

      Ace has not had any more flareups since this post was written, so it’s been about three years! I slowly weaned him off the Pred by cutting his dosage in half every month over the course of about six months until he was getting half a tab every other day and eventually none.

  36. I failed to mention that I myself was told to give him benadryl. When I gave him 4 25mg capsules yesterday evening within a few hours the swelling went down in his R eye. This morning his ears however are still swollen/heavy, but both eyes seem to be back to normal. I am just worried about another flare up because as I said it started in his L eye and steroid shot was given and the swelling seemed to go down shortly after. But I am questioning why after the shot was given did his other eye swell when the medicine was already in his system. Now the only answer I’ve come up with is I was told the shot was good from 12-24 hours. I took him to the animal hospital and by the time they got the shot in his system I would say it was around 11AM yesterday morning when I noticed the R eye start to swell this was around 1AM so my only conclusion is that the shot started to wear off. Were swollen/heavy ears also a reaction with Ace? Just the floppy part.

  37. Lindsay Stordahl

    Ace had no swelling in his ears. He does get a lot of ear infections and he has skin allergies in general, too. But he did not have swollen ears when he had swollen eyes.

    I would take your dog into his regular vet on Monday and get a second opinion if you don’t get all of your questions answered. Thank you for checking out my blog, and I hope your dog feels better soon!

    1. Thank you for your advice. I had an appointment with my regular vet today and she seems to think he had some sort of allergic reaction. It’s tough to say as mentioned my poor guy has quite a few medical conditions. I myself am just very stressed and nervous over the situation that occurred. Since writing this post both of Koby’s eyes have stopped swelling. I just pray that it does not return. I’m glad to hear Ace is doing well!

  38. Hi there Lindsay,
    Thank you for all the info. My dog Lexi’s eyes began to swell a few days ago. They were also a bit bloodshot. I rushed her in to the vet 3 days after they first began to look strange. At first they just seemed like an allergy or something. Her reg vet guessed that it could be either extraocular myosotis or glaucoma because her eye pressure tests were high. Our vet got us in the very next day with a specialist and Lexi was diagnosed with extraocular myosotis. She has been on prednisone for 2 days and I am hopeful that her eyes will begin to go down a bit soon. It has made me feel better and more positive after reading your blog knowing that your dog has recovered just fine. That first night that we thought she may have glaucoma I was devastated since she is such a young dog (only 1 year & 4 months.) I wish I had read your blog before I did so much glaucoma research. I am still so confused about the cause of this problem. The specialist had told me this was an autoimmune disease but you had mentioned it was a result of an allergy. Did you ever find out what allergy your dog had that caused his extraocular myosotis?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      So glad I could help. I am no doctor, but I understand that allergies are an exaggerated immune response.

      The specialist told me that my dog’s extraocular myositis was caused by an unknown allergy. We never figured out what. There was really know way to know. She also said it rarely comes back again. So, that is also good news! It’s been a few years now and my dog has been great!

      I hope your pup is back to normal soon!

  39. Lindsay,

    We have been fostering a mom & 9 puppies since their birth on 9/17/11. One has been adopted and we have been working hard on getting the 8 remaining pups to their forever homes. Chula, the mom just got adopted last week. Amelia one of the pups started with bulging eyes on Thursday. The vet gave her eye drops and prednisone, she thought it may be glaucoma. She also recommended that we take her to another vet in town because she didnt have the instrument to measure the pressure in her eyes. The other vet stated no pressure in her eyes or tumors of any kind. she did increase the prednisone.
    The two vets that saw her have not seen a case like this one. You did mention its rare. Can you please send me the # of your eye specialist?

    Thank you for this wonderful info which you have share with us….I will send you the picture of Amelia.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I got your email. I will find the number of the specialist. Based on the pics, it looks exactly like polymyositis. I know it looks bad, but if that is what this pup has, it is not as bad as it seems!

  40. My girl was diagnosed with extraocular mysositis. She is a 22 month old golden retriever. Her eye symptoms started with a glassy appearance. Initially, the vet treated it as an eye allergy, and recommended bathing, feet cleaning, etc. As the condition worsened, it was treated as an infection. The condition worsened, so I left the dog at the vet with instructions to figure it out. This process was very disturbing. To our vet’s credit, and with consultation, he was able to diagnose it and began treatment with Prednisone. She was the vet’s first patient with the diagnosis. The eyes bulged at least as much as the retriever’s picture and turned more outward. Her vision was impacted as evidenced by the fact that she could not catch a ball if thrown even gently into the air.

    To the gentlemen’s comment about the dangers of Prednisone, I have looked at every web page on the topic and there is no better alternative. The no treatment option may cause permanent eye damage.

    My vet said he prescribed Prednisone at the low end of dosage level, and compared to the other bloggers, much lower. She was prescribed 30mg per day. After two weeks her eyes returned almost to normal, but as her dosage was reduced to mg 20mg, the bulging increased so her dosage has, again, been increased to 30mg. It has been 3 weeks now at 30mg and her eyes look almost normal and we are hoping we can soon start to decrease the dosage.

    During treatment Prednisone at the 5 week mark, her weight has decreased from 70 to 65 pounds. Her energy level is very low, to an extent she often doesn’t even get up to greet new arrivals to the house. She experiences extreme hunger symptoms and begs seriously. Our biggest worry has become the possibility of eating materials that may obstruct her tract. Fortunately, she has passed or vomited everything so far.

    According to the literature, the disease is rare and golden retrievers are most likely to get it, with labs next most frequent

    Great web site as it has given descriptions that are very close to my experience.

      1. Dear Lindsay,

        I found your website last week right after may male Doberman’s eyes started bugging out of his head. He is 19 months old and had been neutered 8 days prior (a stress event). We live in Nicaragua so we are quite limited as to the extent of veterinary help available. An opthalmic vet is not on. The vets here are good as far as it goes but the vet I took Ziggy to treated me in a very condescending manner and just said ” si, si, si” when I asked him if he had ever heard of this disease. Instead he suggested that the dog had been urinated on by some type of fox and prescribed Prednisone and Rimadyl. On the Rimadyl website they emphatically say that its use with Prednisone is not advised. I phoned the vet and asked about that and he said that if I wasn’t going to trust in him and was going to believe everything I read on the internet that that was up to me. Obviously this vet is not for me! Trying to find a vet that speaks any English is very difficult here. My Spanish is marginal in everyday situations but this certainly goes beyond my limited abilities. I have not and will not administer the Rimadyl. Have started the Prenisone though. Could you please send me the name, phone number and email of your Othamologist specialist as I feel I need to talk to him/her. Your website is great by the way.

        Thanking you in anticipation

        Jill Martin

  41. Dear Lindsay,

    I am so glad you have written this blog. This is so helpful since there is not much out there on this eye condition. Our 7 month old golden retriever was diagnosed with extraocular polymositis on April 28th. She started on 60 mg of Prednisone daily and then we dropped to 40 mg daily after 2 1/2 weeks since her eyes looked normal again. Unfortunately, her eyes started to bulge after about 5 days on the lower does, so now she is bumped back up to 60 mg daily. I think it was too much of a drop in her dosage. So, she has been on the 60 for 1 week now – slowly they are improving but not quite back to normal yet. She is not tolerating the Pred very well. She is extremely bloated, very tired, hungry, thirsty, has the pred head. I feel so bad for her….I told my vet my concern about the side affects and he suggested putting her on Azathioprine along with the Pred – that way we can taper her off the Pred quicker, but then she will be on Azathioprine – which made no sense to me. Since it is an anti cancer drug, there are a lot of side affects and puts her at more risk for infection, etc….. I called my vet this morning and told him we just want her on the pred and we do not want to add any more additional meds. She is improving so we know the Pred works, it just has nasty side affects. I just hope there is no permanent damage done to her after she is off the prednisone since she is so young. It’s basically getting the dosage amount correct when it comes time to taper them down. At first, I think they mentioned 10 mg less a day for 2 weeks, then I’m not sure what the dosage is from that point. What was your vet reccomending once the eyes were back to normal ?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      We cut the dosage in half every two weeks, and he never had his eyes flare up again when I did it that way. The side effects do go away. The bloating goes away. The head goes back to normal. My dog actually returned to normal within a week or two, if I remember right.

      1. Hi Lindsay,

        I have one more quick question – when your dog lost his muscle on the top of his head and it became bony, did they eyes appear to bulge more ? Now that the top of her head is sunken in more, her eyes appear buggy again.


  42. That is really good to know that they go back to normal that quickly. Chelsey had blood work done yesterday and her liver counts are sky high. The vet said we have to put her on Azathioprine, so we can wean her off the Pred quicker. She hasn’t tolerated the Pred well since the beginning and it shows. I started her last night on it – he said after a week, we will taper the Prednisone down. I am hoping it will get her eyes back to normal – they don’t seem to be going down any more. Now I am worried about the side effects from the Azathioprine.

    I’m glad your dog hasn’t had a reoccurence – that’s very hopeful.

  43. about 4 years ago my dog had his lower eyelids turn completely inside out, he couldnt see/.put him on antibiotics for about 2 weeks and surgically had his tissue removed,now its happening again.has anybody ever had this experience before,i want to know if i can rince with saline?

  44. Hi Lindsay,

    Our 10 month old Golden retriever is still being weaned off the prednisone from her extraocular Polymyositis. SHe has been on Pred for 3 1/2 months. I have noticed that she has developed a twitch (shaking head) every once in a while – maybe once every 3 weeks it happens. It doesn’t last long ( 1-2 minutes), but my vet can’t explain it. I wondered if your dog ever experienced anything like this being on the prednisone this long…..

  45. I can’t thank you enough for this information. My 1year old lab woke up one morning with bulging eyes and after reading this the vet and I determined that he has EOM. I am 6 weeks into the treatment with prednisone. The side effects he has are really troubling me but I hope it is worth it in the long run. He is only on 80mg a day now but his eyes seem to be bulging slightly again. His case seems to be exactly like Ace’s. Your information is greatly appreciated!!!!! Thanks, Nicole

  46. Experiencing this one right now. Hopefully he’ll be ok tomorrow. My is mild. Just a little swelling around the eyes.

  47. my dog a cross breed daschund-beagle has his left eyelids swollen and is reddish he is 6months old and is very playful. what do i do?. please help

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      If it doesn’t go away soon, I would call the vet and schedule an appointment. It’s most likely an allergic reaction or a minor infection.

  48. i have a question.. we noticed my 4 yr old pit was having problems with his 3 eye lid in both eyes. we thought it was bc he was depressed from being in a basement bc our house got destroyed in sandy. well now we have back home and he has 2 other pitbulls to play with. and he is still having this issue. we took him to his vet that said wait a month and lets see if it gets better if not he can go on steriods. i called back a month later and she said to take him to an eye specialist bc it got progressively worse. they took bloodwork bc that was cheaper than a MRI and that was 2 days ago. since than he is lethargic cries to go up stairs and just restless do you know if this is signs of this? he hasnt lost muscle mass in his head. well none i can see.

  49. Thanks for posting this, my 7 month old golden retriever Dagny has the exact same thing. Vet said it was scleritis and might be auto immune related since she tested negative for glaucoma or anything tick related ( so of course I freaked out). He referred us to an eye specialist specialist and she said it was most likely an allergic reaction (bug spray, tree bark, etc. but no way to tell for sure). She’s on allergy meds, and only 15 mg of prednisone. Her eyes look EXACTLY like the golden in the picture but they started improving after a couple days of the meds (still bulging but the swelling went down considerably).

    Wish I saw this thread earlier, would’ve saved me a lot of anxiety. I recommend that anyone experiencing the same to just immediately go to the specialist. Since my vet didn’t know what it was it just freaked me out even more.

  50. Thanks do much for the postings. Almost 3 weeks ago we took our dog to the vet because hid eyes started to bulge. We were given drops and were told it was an allergic reaction. I kept looking on line and as soon as I saw the pictures knew he had this. Called the vet and was told I was mistaken. Took him back the next day to the vet that specializes in eyes snf he confirmed my diagnosis. Been on 50 mg of prednisone for 2 weeks and looking better but not back to normal yet. He is now losing weight and I feel his spine and shoulders do easily. He goes back for a checkup next week. Anyone else experience weight loss from extra ocular myositis

    1. The weight loss is muscle atrophy from the prednisone. It is normal. Once your dog is off the prednisone, his body will go back to normal.

    1. I suppose every dog is different, and this would be a good question for your dog’s vet.

      In the case of my dog, the Prednisone made him very hungry. So he did try to eat more. It also made him thirsty, and it caused his body to retain water (yet he had to pee all the time, in massive quantities). So, while his muscles were decreasing in mass, causing his spine and other bones to stick out, he was also looking more “swollen” through the chest due to the water retention.

      I imagine every dog reacts differently, but that was my dog’s experience. He was back to normal very soon after I took him off the Pred. Hope your pup is feeling better soon! I’ve never been on Prednisone long term. I imagine it is no fun!

  51. Thanks Lindsay our dog went from 63 down to 58 in 2 weeks but we did not increase his food. Did your dog lose weight that quickly?

    1. It’s been a few years, so I don’t remember how quickly, but that sounds about right. Sending your dog my get well wishes!

  52. Thanks again for taking the time to have this site and answer questions. We took our dog back to the vet on Friday and his prednisone was dropped again down to 12.5. He actually wanted to play yesterday for the first time in over a month. Fingers crossed it looks encouraging.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I imagine it usually happens in both eyes since it’s an allergic reaction to something in the environment. What has your dog’s vet suggested?

  53. Just have to say Thank you for taking the time to post your experience… Took my girl (Golden Ret) to Vet was told it was allergies, gave me eye ointment & sent me on my way $300 dollars later, she got worse the next day.. Started to my research and found your site first.. Will call my vet tomorrow & see if we can go the Pred way and see if that will bring down some of her swelling. She is getting a bit nippy but I am sure she is just uncomfortable.. I hope there is not a lot of pain, she does not seem to be. She has had allergies since I brought her home, she is a Parvo puppy : ( but she pulled through. She can pull through this too : ) Again, Thank you for taking your time to help all of us out here who get pushed under the door by vets… <3

  54. Well here we go again. This is the third time Hank has gotten the bulging eyes and we have only had him 2 years. The vet says he has never seen a dog have it this many times. I have giving him the prednisone but in less than 48 hours we see a huge improvement again. The last time we treated him was in June of this year. Has anyone else suffered multiple reocurrences?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Ace had it twice, one right after the other. The second time seemed to be because I didn’t wean him off the pred slow enough. After his re-occurrence, I weaned him off the pred extremely slowly. I decreased it by 50 percent every month over six months. It seemed over the top, but it worked. He never got swollen eyes again after that (it’s been more than five years). Maybe that would work for your dog as well.

  55. I believe this is the same condition that my dog is currently experiencing but I am not 100% sure yet. He is a 3 year old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix who has been in great health other than this.

    As for his condition: he does/did not exhibit pain or discomfort when I noticed that his eyes were swelling and his eyes have not been oozing/draining other than the usual, very small amount that occurs at night. I took him to the vet about five days ago and they gave me a prednisone eye drop prescription that I give him every eight hours but they were unable to diagnose the condition with 100% certainty. He was tested for glaucoma and that test was negative. He also does not exhibit symptoms similar to those of uveitis but I am not a veterinarian so I am only going off of what I can tell by reading various websites and blogs on the internet.

    After five days of the prednisone eye drops, the swelling in his eyes has improved significantly. However, I can tell a noticeable difference in his vision. When he tries to focus on something, he will open his eyes really wide in an effort to see more clearly. When he focuses on something and his eyes are really wide open, he looks very similar to the dog pictured in the third picture at the top of this page (the wide-eyed golden retriever). He struggles to identify objects unless they are moving or easily distinguishable from the surroundings.

    My question is: did your dog’s vision suffer from this swelling and if so, did it eventually return to normal or was it permanently impaired?

    I know you said it took a long time to successfully get him off of the prednisone without having the swelling return so I realize that me and my pup may be dealing with this condition for a while but I am just curious as to any longterm effects.

    I am taking him to see a specialist this afternoon to hopefully get a complete and confirmed diagnosis. I’ll add another post later with the information I get back from the specialist to hopefully help anyone else that may go through this situation in the future.

    Thanks for the time you have taken to keep this blog going and the information it contains. It’s a tough situation when our furry friends are not doing well and having information like this to refer to is very helpful in instances when it is difficult even for veterinarians to initially diagnose. Thanks!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Hi Tim. Sorry to hear about your dog’s eye troubles.

      When my dog had the polymyositis issue, he had trouble seeing only because his eyes were so bugged out. Does that makes sense? For example, I threw his ball for him without thinking, and he crashed into a tree. Poor guy.

      In my dog’s case, there were no longterm effects. The prednisone helped him, and he was fine once the condition went away. He’s now 9 years old, and this is long behind us.

      Does that help?

  56. Thank you so much for writing about your dog Ace. I know this was written in 2008 but your blog and a wonderful woman’s Facebook page helped me diagnose my boy Toby.
    Luckily, I have an amazing vet who had never seen this before but believed me and researched Extraocular polymyositis. There is still so little about this disorder/disease out there. My vet gave Toby an injection today and is consulting a specialist and doing research to figure out the best dosage and plan for my pup. Toby is a golden/lab mix, he is only 6 1/2 months and he had just be neutered and had to have surgery on his deformed dewclaws. Some new research shows that EOM can be brought on by stress also.

    Again thank you so much for this blog.

  57. Hi Lindsay, My 16 mo old American Bully just came down with this issue about a week ago. We took him to the vet because his eyes were really bloodshot red and seemed to cross but outwardly. He also had a rash on his underside and in the webbing of his front paws. Seemed like an allergic reaction to something, that we have no idea what. The vet then gave him prednisone 20mg and an antibiotic for 2 wks and some eye ointment to put in his eyes every 12 hours and shampoo. We now have him on the prenisone every other day right now per the Rx. At first his eyes, worsened following the visit to the vet where they bugged out something terrible although the redness and rashy issue seemed to subside somewhat. We took him back to the vet, but said just to be patient and let the medicine work. Now that it’s been a little over a week about 8 days since the start of the medicine, his eyes are still bulging, but only sporatically, the redness is starting to subside. Hopefully, by his next appt next week, he will be a lot better.
    After read most of the comments, it appears this is why my dog has, even though the vet didnt seem to diagnose it. He said he didn’t know what was wrong since all his vitals seemed ok and that it was probably due to allergies of some kind. We also have stopped our current food and put him on grain free food now to alleviate any type of food allergy. Thanks so much for your blog. It’s the only one there there with some good info.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Good luck with this, Claire. I hope you get it figured out. For what it’s worth, my 70-pound dog was put on 80 mg of pred daily for a month to get this under control. Then we slowly tapered that down over 6 months. This was after talking with an eye specialist. Our regular vet originally just gave us eye drops that did nothing.

  58. I have an eight month old golden retriever and German Shepard mix. What a sweetheart but about two weeks ago her eyes starting bulging out of her head. I was a mess brought her to see two different vets neither knew what it was and tried pain meds and histamines. It did nothing my vet wasn’t worried and said he thought it was an allergy. I went crazy researching and found your website. My baby looked just like the pic of the golden. Iprinted up info brought it to my vet and he immediately started the prednisone . Helped in two days. I just came from the eye specialist and she added azathioprine because she said there is still swelling even though they look better. I’m just so nervous about giving this drug to such a young baby. Oh yeah her BUN was also elevated before starting the prednisone. Docs are rechecking that in a week and say hopefully it’s just from this. Thank you for posting all this.

  59. Theresa van Gessel

    Thank you! After reading this post I was able to do further research then share the suggestion with my vet who then confirmed that in fact my dog does have extroccular myositis – that none of the vets or emergency vets had previously come across.

  60. My dog kya has been on the immune system suppressant azathiprane and I’m worried because vet said one of the side effects is bone marrow loss while she is on it. Makes me think her bones could be weaker. She is a jumper although right now she isn’t doing anything but laying around
    Do you know if this could lead to her bones breaking easier. I hate medicating my dog when I know it makes her feel like such crap. Any suggestions?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I think she will be OK but talk to the vet about the side effects. Maybe best to keep her quiet for this month and home a lot any way since her immune system will be weaker, although I didn’t worry about that much with Ace on prednisone. I never did any bloodwork with him at that time. No one suggested it and it wouldn’t have crossed my mind. I am wishing your pup the best!

  61. Just an update. Kya has been on pred now for going on six weeks. The specialist had us try to decrease her pred two different times but each time her eyes started to swell within four hours of her not having it. So she decided to ween her off the azathioprine first. We have her off that now but worried cuz she seems to still need the pred and she is not the same puppy. I know she will feel better after but she is so tired and she pants constantly. She has gained weight and just lays around. Hope this gets better.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Sorry to hear that. As you read in my example, my dogs eyes swelled when I decreased the pred the first few times. Maybe your dog just needs more time.

  62. i know this is from ages ago, however our 1 year old retriever has this and has been on the steroids low dose 25mg for over a month now with little improvement. all you have said such as pronounced spine, huge increase in appetite etc are what she has. so thank you for a better insight into this. I hope your dog has recovered.

  63. my dog is a pure bred doberman. had a weird series of health events that we’ve been struggling with. first i noticed all of the sudden a couple months ago one eye bulging, as your pictures indicate. not red but white sticking out and scary looking. kinda freaked out but also noticed her tongue on the same side was swollen near the back. odd …. but figured she bit a bee outa the air or something which would cause maybe a swollen eye and tongue. so i gave her benadryl and also put a drop of prednisone acetate in the bad eye… next morning all good eye better everything good. then progressively over next week or so she began to cough…. got very bad. went to vet. got xrays had radiologist read them. water on her lungs. couple swollen lymph nodes. no enlarged heart… bloodwork as well.
    treatment prednisone and antibiotics. slowly cough went away. shortly after meds gone within a week symptoms started again. seems the prednisone was actually what was working as antibiotics weren’t doing anything until pred was prescribed. now she’s back on prednisone and cough is going away but not gone… she’s only doing 15 mg very other day.
    Just got home from work and both her eyes are bulging outa her head. yuk. looks like a sloth. anyway. same as the first eye episode but both eyes.
    will get to vet tomorrow but did the benadryl and prednisone acetate in eyes again. see what happens. but the info i’ve read seems helpful.
    she is ten years old. so no spring chicken but is my baby. hope i can fix her. thanks for all the info that’s been posted

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