Also known as "Lazy Eye," amblyopia is a common condition in human children. In general, canines are less likely to have the condition than humans, although flat-faced breeds with bulging eyes -- such as Boston Terriers, Pekingese, pugs, boxers, bulldogs and Shih Tzus -- are among the most susceptible. If your puppy's eyes seem out of alignment with one another, it may be the result of a harmless condition or something more serious that requires veterinary attention.
Amblyopia in Puppies
Causes in Brachycephalic Breeds
The bulging eyes of brachycephalic or flat-faced breeds are caused by their compacted head structure resulting in shallow eye sockets. Eyes can become misaligned or even come altogether out of the sockets if one of these dogs falls from his owners arms onto a hard floor or collides with an object or another pet during play. Small breeds prone to hypoglycemia can have amblyopic symptoms when their blood sugar is getting dangerously low. In other breeds, lazy eye is usually due to a structural abnormality such as a cloudy area on the lens, a misshapen eye or abnormal retina. While symptoms of amblyopia most commonly present themselves in puppyhood, the condition can occur from injury or disease at any time of a dog's life.
Irish Setters and Amblyopia
Irish setters are prone to a hereditary disorder affecting the nervous system, with symptoms including amblyopia. The condition is present at birth, and the symptoms are usually recognizable within the first few days of life. Affected pups have a characteristic swimming movement to propel themselves along on their bellies and are usually not able to stand or walk when their littermates do. The symptoms are accompanied by vision impairment evidenced by not blinking or moving the head away when you shine a light in the eyes.
Often confused with lazy eye, strabismus is a condition where they eyeball is abnormally positioned due to muscles around the eye being of unequal lengths. Many puppies are born cross-eyed, especially in the brachycephalic breeds, with eyes straightening out as the puppy grows. Boston terriers tend to have eyeballs that diverge away from the nose, an inherited condition not usually severe enough to cause significant vision problems. Horner's syndrome, whereby facial nerves are disrupted, can cause the third eyelid to partially close, the upper eyelid to droop and the eye to sink into the head, with an outward appearance that it is out of alignment. The condition can be caused by injury or disease based in local nerves, the spinal cord or brain.
If your dog has trouble seeing out of one eye, his eyes do not track together or one appear misaligned, see a vet. Unlike human lazy eye treatments, which involve covering the strong eye with a patch to develop strength in the weak eye, an amblyopic dog can suffering from neurological disorders that grow worse over time. Placing a patch over your dog's good eye can result in a vision-impaired dog running into objects, causing further injury. Only your vet will be able to determine if your puppy's lazy eye is something he may grow out of or if your pup is suffering from a more serious condition requiring medication or surgery.
By J.T. O'Connell
Healthline: 12 Common Dog Breeds and Their Health Issues
Veterinary Partner: Brachycephalic Breeds/Brachycephalic Syndrome
The University of Sydney: Disorder - Quadriplegia and Amblyopia
Veterinary Partner: Canine Eyes
Pet Education: Strabismus and Cross-Eyed Dogs
Pet Education: Horner's Syndrome
Pet Education: Horner's Syndrome
About the Author
A former world-class swimmer, J.T. O'Connell shares her love of adventure travel, extreme sports and pets through thousands of published articles. O'Connell studied journalism at Grand Canyon University, and brings professional experience as a tour guide and travel consultant. She authors the blog, Traveling With Large Dogs.