My Dog’s Eyes Are Rolling Back – What’s Going On?

You look at your dog, and it seems that he is rolling his eyes to the back of his head. It can’t be a sarcastic commentary on your behavior, can it? So what exactly is going on with your pup?

If you think something is wrong with your pup, getting the right veterinary advice quickly can make all the difference! Describe your dog’s condition to a certified veterinarian right now! Remember to be specific.

Why Are My Dog’s Eyes Rolling Back?

Relax , in most cases, his eyes aren’t really heading toward the back of his head- it may merely look that way. What you are seeing is your pet’s nictitating membrane, known also as the haw or the third eyelid. But if you can see it clearly, something may indeed be wrong.

About The Third Eye

The nictitating membrane is found in the inner corner of your dog’s eye. It varies in color, from clear to cloudy, depending on the breed. This organ serves a number of purposes.

It acts as a sort of armor protecting the cornea from damage. Moreover, it functions as a sort of windshield wiper sweeping away dirt, debris, and excess mucus.

This nictitating membrane’s tear gland produces about forty percent of tears, while its lymphoid system produces bodies which help to fight infection. And it does all of this without usually being seen, something like a stealthy, disease and damage fighting ninja.

You are likely to see this membrane if you lift your pup’s eyelid while he is sleeping, or when he suddenly awakens. But if you can see it on other occasions, something is wrong.

It may be a minor concern, but it could also indicate a major threat to your pet’s health.

This nictitating membrane may be abnormally elevated, prolapsed, or even protruding, and this could be for a number of reasons. One major concern should be a neurological disease that is affecting any nerves in the surrounding area.


One such defect is nystagmus, which is evidenced by involuntary movements of eyeballs.

There are two types of this disease.

A most common one, is evidenced by a slow and involuntary movement of eyeball in a single direction, with a rapid correction following.

Pendular nystagmus involves an involuntary movement with no change in speed. Such a disease can also cause head tilting and circling.

Use Of Tranquilizers

Another cause for this unusual appearance of your pup can be a relaxation of extraocular muscles, This can be just a temporary condition caused by tranquilizers. Your pet is simply just a little too relaxed.

all dog breeds are prone

Cherry Eye

This condition happens when the third eyelid gland prolapses and protrudes as a fleshy, red mass, resembling a cherry. Hence the name.

This defect is most common in young dogs as well as cats, those under two years of age.

Extreme Pain, Tumors & Other Conditions…

On the other side, you cannot rule out the presence of an abnormal growth, such as a tumor or cyst.

This unusual appearance can also be the result of ocular pain.

But pain is not the only cause of such a recession. Is your pet dehydrated? Has he suffered a recent weight loss? Your vet will perform an eye exam to check for some abnormality in the surrounding structures, as they may be involved in the problem.

The haw may be visible when it shouldn’t be due to the abnormally small size of the eyeball itself. In some animals, it can be congenital, while in others it can be triggered by inflammation.

Moreover, and just like humans, our canine buddies can contract other diseases such as conjunctivitis …


They can also suffer from strabismus, which causes the globes to not track together. This can be disconcerting to you but does not usually itself, affect your pet’s quality of life.

Strabismus can be caused by a number of factors. Often, it can be inherited , and in such case, there is no treatment. Your canine companion will live a long, healthy life, although with adorably wonky appearance.

However, such defect can also be provoked by injury or infection, and it should be left to your vet to determine if this, and provide a best course of treatment.

Vestibular Disease

Yet another illness is vestibular disease, commonly caused by an infection of the inner or middle ear canal.

This can cause your pet to appear unbalanced in his gait, and his globes to move involuntarily up or down. He may look drunk. This is not all that uncommon in older pups.

In fact, this illness is called old dog vestibular disease.

It can be caused by a number of things besides infection. An old trauma or a possible metabolic problem may be affecting your pet . It can, also, simply be a function of senior age.

A Stroke

Many owners will mistakenly believe that their beloved companion has suffered a stroke and dread thoughts of euthanasia, but this condition usually resolves in a few days, much to their relief.

However, this is not always true . Sometimes, if it looks like a stroke, it simply may be a stroke. This may be caused by FCE (fibrocartilaginous emboli), a piece of fibrous tissue or cartilage, breaking off from somewhere and causing a blockage in the flow of blood.

Other causes include seizures . A seizure can be caused by a number of things and only your vet can make make a proper diagnosis .


Next time if you see your dog’s eyes rolled back in it’s head , think of his haw.

Obviously, that little piece of tissue may indicate something minor, or something significantly more important as many dog health problems can be behind it.

Your pet depends on your best judgement not to ignore his symptoms. Your peace of mind, and his health depends on it. Remember to rely on the sound advice of professionals and always have a plan in place should an accident or potential health issue occur.

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