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Why is Your Dog’s Eye Rolling Back? Common Causes and Treatments

Why is Your Dog’s Eye Rolling Back? Common Causes and Treatments

When your dogs eye starts rolling back, it can be a frightening experience for any pet parent. Not only does it seem uncomfortable, but it also raises many questions about what might be wrong.

Like in horror movies, we suddenly take one look at our dogs, and their eyes are dead white. In seconds, we will be startled, especially if it’s the first time seeing such, but then have no fear or maybe have some as it might not be the Halloween of dogs yet.

There are several reasons this could occur in dogs, and for you, who cares less? It’s still probably something to worry about.

Let us explore why a dog’s eyes could be rolling back.

What Causes a Dogs Eye Rolling Back?

It could be probably nothing; maybe it’s just messing with you. As we mentioned, there might be several reasons, and you should still take them to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. 

Dogs who exhibit abnormal eye movement may have a range of problems or diseases, many of which are difficult to diagnose without a medical examination. Pooches with irregular eye positions should be treated urgently, especially if they exhibit other symptoms.

Most commonly, seizures or losing consciousness cause a dog’s eyes to “roll back in their head”. Tumors around the eyes, diseases of the facial nerve, and congenital issues with the eye muscles can all result in abnormal eye positions. 

One interesting thing to note before we explore the causes of this abnormal eye movement is that dogs possess a third eyelid, a fact many dog owners do not know about their friends. 

Reasons Why Your Dogs Eyes Rolling Back

Back to the elephant in the room, there are more reasons why your dog rolls its eyes to the back, and then it’s caused by major health conditions:


We don’t mean to scare you, but someone is about to trip. Just like the dramatic way humans slump with their eyes rolling like a doughnut ring, there is every possibility that your furry friend is about to have a seizure. 

Your dogs eye rolling back could be the result of a seizure. It’s a reality that not all seizures have the same appearance. 

Sometimes odd eye movements are the only observable symptom. You might also observe that your dog appears puzzled and bewildered for a short time. 

People frequently presume someone is having a seizure when they notice someone else’s eyes rolling back in their head. The experience is different in our canine pals as they sometimes show two common symptoms by rolling their eyes to the back. 

Firstly, apart from the paranoia you feel right now with the strange white part of the eye, the innocent soul is probably off to another world, disoriented and about to lose consciousness, Poor little soul! Secondly, you might notice excess saliva, commonly called drooling, from the side panel of your dog’s mouth, and this is not a moment of disgust, but a seizure is underway. 

Other potential causes may include gnashing of the teeth or uncontrollable movement and vigorous shaking like humans. 

What to Do if My Dog Has a Seizure?

  • Do not panic. It is strange, but it is the first step to solving this problem, and it’s often the hardest, too, just like we would exhibit such a panic mood if it were a human.
  • With your mobile device, record the moment so you may show the veterinarian later at the clinic and take note of the time it occurred. 
  • Gently help your canine pal to lay its head on a cushion or away from the stairs. Do everything necessary to make it avoid falling or hitting his head till it regains consciousness. 
  • You could also get a wet towel or cold water and wrap it around its groin, paw, or shoulders to help it cool, as it may be overheating already. 
  • Do not try to force his mouth open, or you may be bitten or add to the drooling. 
  • If the seizure is beyond 2-3 minutes, you must take a quick drive to the vet’s clinic for proper diagnosis and care. 


Another reason why your dogs eye rolling back could be due to a common condition called Nystagmus in medical terms. There are two major types; jerk nystagmus and pendular Nystagmus.

In this case, you might see your dog’s eyes twitching, flickering, or sometimes rolling to the back in an up-down movement or side to side.

This condition is called Nystagmus, and it affects the balance of your dog. It is also a vestibular disease- relating to ear infections or inner that is responsible for balance and as.

Well, it could be a neurological disorder due to brain infection, affecting small and old dogs. During their old age, they develop illness in their vestibular system, which becomes more prevalent.

Due to this, the disorder is also referred to as idiopathic vestibular syndrome and geriatric dog vestibular syndrome.

What is the Treatment for Nystagmus in Dogs?

This is one case beyond waiting for the flickering to stop. As mentioned, it is a condition whose severity is relative to the age of the dog, and as such strict medical attention should be given to the dog to know the underlying cause.

Nystagmus in dogs varies, and that is why you need to take the dog to the vet to run some diagnostic tests on your canine pal so it will be treated accordingly. 


Have you ever had itches in the eyes? You probably remember how you wiggled your eyes to ease the irritation. Dogs, too, sometimes have tumors in their eyes, which can be cancerous or not, and make them roll their eyes to the back continuously to ease the pain. 

Tumor in the eye, medically called melanomas, is a common condition in dogs and probably affects 80% of dogs, of which a more significant percentage isn’t cancerous. Eye melanoma is common in some breeds like Golden retrievers, German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, and even Lagotto breeds due to their skin pigmentation. 

We can’t point fingers at a particular thing as being the cause of ocular cancer in dogs, just like every cancerous condition. It could be environmental or genetic or even more complex than imagined. 

But in the case of a dog, it may not even be that complex, as a tumor in your dog’s eye may produce unusual ocular behavior such as rolling.

It’s probably due to the fact that they have a cyst, which isn’t as bad but still needs to be treated. These growths can also form on the dog’s eyelid, causing a similar reaction. MRI or CT scans are commonly used to diagnose tumors.

Cherry Eye in Dogs

dogs eye rolling back

As I have discussed earlier, this is one of those conditions you can relate to the third eyelid in dogs. The Cherry eye affects the haw or inner lid as it makes it protrudes out of its base. The inner lid becomes reddish or bright red and thus causes your puppy to roll its eyes. 

Apart from your dog’s bright red and protruding eyes now, you might see your dog wide awake unable to close its eyes or constantly rubbing it like a baby. Those are the little signs of the cherry eye condition caused by the breakdown of the ligaments that keeps the gland in place. 

Some breeds are more prone to cherry eye than others, and it is most common with dogs under two years of age. 

Pekingese, Shih Tzus, beagles, Maltese, Basset Hounds, Rottweilers, Saint Bernards, Neapolitan mastiffs, Shar-peis, Boston terriers, and English bulldogs are more likely than other breeds to acquire cherry eye.

What to Do if Your Dog Has a Cherry Eye

You can help your dog by gently compressing or gently massage the spot. However, non-surgical treatment won’t eradicate the problem as you may need to take your dog for surgery instead, which is the best way to get rid of the condition. 


One of the scariest experiences in the human world is a sudden stroke. However, no one can tell when it will happen. Your dog’s eyes are rolling back, probably due to a stroke too shocking, right? 

A stroke is caused by a lack of blood supply to the dog’s brain. Two types of strokes could occur based on the severity;

  • Ischemic stroke: also referred to as cerebral ischemic stroke, occurs when an obstruction like blood clots, inflammation, or others of the blood vessels happens. 
  • Hemorrhagic stroke: This is caused by a blood clotting disorder or blood vessel rupture. 


In order to properly diagnose your dog in case of a stroke, an MRI or CAT scan can be used to evaluate the brain to see if the heart is healthy.

Additionally, your veterinarian may perform other tests like hormone testing, blood work, and urinalysis to look for underlying conditions that could cause a blood clot. Then, the necessary treatments can be prescribed based on the veterinarian’s recommendation. 

Strabismus in Dogs

You may have noticed the involuntary movement of your dog’s eyes in different directions as a pet owner. This condition is referred to as Strabismus, and as weird as it seems to your furry friend’s eyes, the poor chap is also in pain due to the condition. 

Strabismus is quite rare in dogs, but some breeds inherit it resulting from the presence of weak muscles in the ear or the brain. It may also be caused by ear or head injury and vestibular disease. These breeds; Pugs, Boston terriers, Irish Wolfhounds, Shar Pei, Akita, and Golden Retrievers.


The underlying cause of Strabismus must be considered before medical treatment, i.e., hereditary or nervous breakdown or injury. It has been discovered that if your dog has inherited Strabismus, treatment is unnecessary, and his quality of life shouldn’t be compromised. You might be given exercises to try and strengthen your dog’s eye muscles, but your dog will be able to adjust.

Strabismus is a condition where the eyes are not aligned. It can be inherited or caused by nerve or injury problems. 

If it is inherited, no treatment is needed, and the dog can adapt. If it is caused by nerve or injury problems, the underlying cause must be treated first. This may include antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, or exercises. 

The dog may also need medication for nausea. Treating Strabismus requires time and patience.

Why Do Dogs Have a Third Eyelid?

The average humans have the upper and the lower eyelid in their anatomy, which helps to protect the eyes from damage, dune, some debris in the open environment, bacteria, and even UV rays. Other animals also have this in their composition and do exactly the same as humans. 

Some animals have two or three eyelids or a nictitating membrane, which is like extra protection and sometimes visible or not in some cases. Examples of third-eyelid animals include birds, cats, polar bears, beavers, camels, dogs, etc. 

A dog’s third eyelid is to protect the eyes, and it’s an extra layer of protection. It is also called a haw or inner eyelid, and it extends across the eyes to:

  • Remove debris from the eyes.
  • Produce enough moisture to spread across the eyes in the form of tears, thus responsible for half of the tears you see in their eyes. 
  • It also protects the eyes from cuts and scratches due to their nature of walking around bushes or short grasses that might harm their eyes. 

Summing It Up

It’s no fun to see your dogs eye rolling back. I get it – it’s scary. But knowing why it’s happening can take some of the worry away.

If your pup starts acting differently or seems unwell, it’s best to give your vet a shout. As a pet parent, you must look out for your little pups.

Once they start acting fast, it shows they’re healthy and happy.

Trust me, your four-legged buddy will thank you for caring for them.


To further enhance your understanding, we’ve compiled some frequently asked questions about “dogs eye rolling back,” along with their answers.

  • What immediate steps should I take if my dog eyes start rolling back?

If your dog’s eyes roll back, remain calm, as panic further stresses them.

  • Does it indicate a serious health issue?

Only sometimes. While it could signal a health concern, it might also be due to standard sleep patterns or behavioral quirks.

  • How can I prevent my dog’s eyes from rolling back?

Preventative measures vary depending on the cause. General prevention strategies include regular vet check-ups, maintaining a healthy diet, and safeguarding your pet from physical trauma.

  • Can it be treated at home?

While minor issues might resolve without treatment, seeking professional advice before administering any home remedies is crucial. What might seem insignificant could be a symptom of a severe underlying condition.

  • How long does is take to recover?

Recovery time depends on the underlying cause and the treatment administered.
Your vet will be able to provide a more accurate timeline based on your dog’s specific case.