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My Dog’s Eyes Are Swollen

Note: Additional information about polymyositis in dogs is available in a more recent post.

Trust your instincts when it comes to your pet’s health. Two weeks ago I noticed such subtle differences in my mutt Ace’s eyes that I convinced myself I was imagining it.

I make eye contact and look at his face several times a day and something seemed a little off.

The next day the whites of Ace’s eyes were swollen and bulging worse than Bart Simpson’s dog. Seriously, he had crazy pug eyes, like an iguana. Even his eyelids were swollen and tight, not droopy like normal.

Ace (not pictured) was eventually diagnosed with extraocular myositis, which means the extraocular muscles in his eyes were inflamed.

This condition is rare, and it was the first time Ace’s vet had heard of it. She initially misdiagnosed him with allergies which made sense given his history of food allergies, itchy skin and ear infections.

Dog (boxer lab mix) with swollen eyes due to polymyositis, also called extraocular myositis

But the prescribed eye drops did not work. I made several calls back and forth with Ace’s vet until she spoke with an eye specialist and we realized what the problem was.

When I saw some photos of other dogs with extraocular myositis (also called polymyositis), I knew that’s exactly what my mutt had. It’s a very unique appearance.

The photo above is of a lab-boxer mix with polymyositis. The photo was submitted by a reader.

The majority of canine extraocular myositis cases are in young, female golden retrievers but is found in other large-breed dogs, according to, a web site maintained and used by veterinarians. Most cases are in retrieving breeds under two years old.

The myositis is not painful, however Ace’s eyes were so bulged outward (away from each other) that he had a hard time seeing. He kept his head turned and tried to depend on one eye.

At one point he ran head-on into a tree when I threw a ball. I felt terrible for throwing the ball. Luckily he just had a scratched nose and was stunned for a minute, like, “That tree came outa nowhere!”

Ace was prescribed with Prednisone. This drug is used to treat all kinds of things from allergies and arthritis to immune-system disorders.

A $30 bottle of pills will last him two weeks, but recurrence of the myositis will be less likely if I slowly decrease the doses over an eight-month period or so, according to VIN and Ace’s vet. Prednisone is a drug that patients need to be weaned off of anyway.

Side effects from the Prednisone, at least for Ace, include extreme thirst (and of course peeing) increased appetite, less energy and an upset stomach.

Ace lacked his natural playfulness last week, and it seemed like he had aged about seven years over night. But after being on the drug for awhile, he is back to his usual self, just a little more tired than normal.

It took about a week before I noticed the swelling in Ace’s eyes decreasing. It has been 11 days since he started Prednisone, and his eyes are almost back to normal. I hate drugging my dog, but at least I know his eyes should be OK and there will be no long-term effects. Hopefully once he is done with the medication, this will be the end of his eye problems.

I don’t know what causes myositis.

Update: The specialist I’ve been in contact with for Ace’s myositis says that the myositis is allergy related and almost always occurs in retrieving breeds that have had other allergy symptoms much of their life.

Please let me know if you’ve ever dealt with this with any of your dogs.

More information about polymyositis in dogs is available in a more recent post.

Feel free to email your questions to me at I am more than willing to answer questions about my experience, but for a diagnosis and treatment, make sure to speak with a specialist.

Ace really did look a lot like Santa’s Little Helper on The Simpsons.


Thursday 18th of January 2018

Thank you so much for this! My 6 month chocolate labs eyes started buldging and I found this site. I took him to the vet tonight and explained the condition I read about on your blog and it was confirmed. The vet actually thanked me for doing the research. He started his prednisone tonight and as you had mentioned is to be weaned with the 21 day total treatment time. I'm so glad my little buddy is going to be ok.

Thank you!! Paul


Saturday 26th of March 2016

Hi! I have a major problem, my 3 yr old pitbull is 45 days pregnant about 11 days ago we woke up to her eyes comp swollen, we took her to the vet, the vet took her temp she was fine, looked a little skinny in her spine, but we thought it could be the puppies. She gave me vet optic, we went home the next day she was WAY WORSE, I took her back. The vet took her temp, she had a little one, so she put her on cephalexin. We came home and three or four days later it was like she lost her sight all together! Back to the vet...She gave us an IV bag to put under her skin to rehydrate her. Nothing really..she looks bad I'm so SCARED! Please help! The vet had no idea..I wonder if she knows about this!

Lindsay Stordahl

Saturday 26th of March 2016

So sorry to hear this. It doesn't really sound like what my dog had. Are her eyelids swollen / puffy around the eyes? Or are the whites of her actual eyes swollen?

Is she eating and drinking?

Is there a different vet you could take her to for 2nd opinion?


Tuesday 19th of January 2016

My 8-year-old female dachshund has been disagnosed with extraocular muscle polymyositis and is on 5 mg prednisolone 2x/day. I took her to the vet as soon as I noticed her bulging eyes. I am hoping for the best. It is so difficult to watch our pets suffer.

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 19th of January 2016

I hope she is back to normal shortly.

Crystal Easton

Saturday 13th of June 2015

Douglas is also a Pitbull mix, 1 1/2 yr old…

Crystal Easton

Saturday 13th of June 2015

I think my dog has this same condition! My Douglas is looking EXACTLY like your photo of Ace, and hes not showing any pain, just this crazy bulging look… but here on vancouver island, my vet doesnt know what to diagnose, so she wants us to take him to an opthamologist in another city on monday, who charges $800 just to look at him. Im looking at $1000 bill already! Hes on Prednisone as of this morning, and she thinks if he doesnt show improvement by monday that he should make an emergency trip . I want to show her your article and have her consider this possible diagnosis. I can handle 8 months of prednisone, i cant handle being gouged by a dog-opthamologist. I went into the wrong business!

Lindsay Stordahl

Sunday 14th of June 2015

Hi Crystal. I hope you figure out what the issue is with Douglas.