Blepharospasm in Dogs

Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Chihuahua with eyes closed inf ield of flowers

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Blepharospasm can affect one or both eyes in a dog. It may occur due to a foreign particle on the eye's surface or eye disease. Twitching and rapid blinking are the signs of blepharospasm. A dog may also rub or scratch the eye, causing further inflammation and redness. Some cases may clear up without treatment, but severe irritation or an underlying condition could cause permanent damage.

What Is Blepharospasm?

Blepharospasm refers to the involuntary blinking or twitching of a dog's eyelid(s). The spasm occurs when an eye is painful or itchy due to an external irritant or physical problem.

Symptoms of Blepharospasm in Dogs

Blepharospasm itself is a symptom of irritation in a dog's eye. Identifying the presence of a spasm, though, can help determine and relieve its cause. If your dog exhibits the following signs, its eye probably needs attention.


  • Twitching eye
  • Blinking repeatedly
  • Squinting

Any involuntary action of the eye or lid is a "red flag" to look for reasons why your dog's eye is irritated.

Causes of Blepharospasm

Eye irritation and pain are the most common reasons why a dog experiences blepharospasm, but the cause of the irritation can be much harder to identify. Among the possibilities are:

  • Foreign particles (dirt, grass, hair, and other objects)
  • Eye infection
  • Allergies
  • Corneal ulcer (erosion of the surface of the cornea that elicits pain)
  • Anterior uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye)
  • Blepharitis (eyelid inflammation)
  • Pannus (inflammatory disease that affects the cornea)
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (decreased tear production, dry eye)
  • Distichiasis (irritation from eyelashes that grow toward the eye)
  • Blastomycosis (fungal infection)

Various other eye issues that irritate or inflame a dog's eye can also trigger blepharospasm.

Diagnosing Blepharospasm in Dogs

It is often simple for a veterinarian to identify blepharospasm since this involuntary eye twitch is obvious. The more important diagnosis that must be made is the underlying reason for the spasm. This may require a variety of eye tests, such as Schirmer tear tests and fluorescein eye staining, along with sedation to properly examine the eye, eyelids, and tear ducts.


The treatment for blepharospasm will depend on the underlying cause. Topical eye drops and ointments are common treatments for a variety of eye issues. Some problems, like distichiasis, may require surgery.

Prognosis for a Dog with Blepharospasm

Because the causes of blepharospasm are so varied, the prognoses are variable. A dog with minor eye irritation from a foreign particle should have no trouble recovering fully.

Prevention of Blepharospasm in Dogs

The best way to prevent blepharospasm from occurring in your dog is to avoid irritation whenever possible. Don't allow your dog to rub its face on the ground or paw at its face excessively. Avoid airborne debris like dust or blowing sand, and don't let your dog stick its head out the window of a moving vehicle. Avoiding these types of situations that can cause injury to a dog's eye.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.