Blepharospasm in Dogs

Chihuahua with eyes closed inf ield of flowers

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A blepharospam can affect one or both eyes in a dog and may occur due to an underlying eye issue. This issue may alarm dog owners that are not familiar with eye problems so it's helpful to understand what blepharospasm is, what may be causing it, and potential treatment options for it. Ignoring this problem could mean permanent damage to the eye depending on the reason for it.

What Is Blepharospasm in Dogs?

Blepharospasm is an involuntary blinking or spasm of the eyelids. Many people may more commonly describe it as an eye twitch. This action can occur when specific parts of the brain that control voluntary muscle function do not work properly or when an eye is irritated or painful.

Signs of Blepharospasm in Dogs

Signs of Blepharospasm in Dogs

  • Eye twitch
  • Closing one eye repeatedly
  • Squinting

Blepharospasm is most often an indication of some eye discomfort or pain. A dog may squint or close one eye repeatedly in addition to the involuntary, rapid blinking that is seen with an eye twitch. This action is not something the dog can control and various other symptoms related to the underlying reason for the blepharospasm may also be present.

Causes of Blepharospasm in Dogs

Eye irritation and pain are the most common reasons why a dog experiences blepharospasm but the reasons why this irritation and pain can occur are vast. Almost any problem involving the cornea of a dog can result in blepharospasm including the following issues.

Corneal ulcer

A corneal ulcer is an erosion of the surface of the cornea and is a very painful condition. Since the cornea is the clear, outermost layer of the eye, an ulcer commonly occurs because of something rubbing on the eye. Dogs with corneal ulcers may develop blepharospasms due to this pain and irritation.

Entropion

Entropian occurs with the eye lids roll inwards. This causes irritation to the cornea and can result in blepharospasm because of the hair that is constantly rubbing on the eye.

Anterior uveitis

This issue involving the middle layer of the eye causes inflammation and can result in very serious eye conditions if not addressed. It can also cause blepharospasm.

Blepharitis

If the eyelids of a dog become inflamed it is called blepharitis and blepharospasm is commonly seen in a dog with this condition.

Foreign body

Sometimes tiny things like dirt, grass, hair, and other objects that are not attached to a dog get under the eyelids and cause irritation to the cornea. These objects can also illicit blepharospasm.

Corneal abscess

Similar to a corneal ulcer, a corneal abscess affects the outermost layer of a dog's eye. It may also be referred to as microbial keratitis. An infection forms instead of an ulcer and can cause blepharospasm.

Pannus

This is a type of inflammatory disease that occurs in dogs and affects the cornea of the eye. It can contribute to the development of blepharospasm.

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca

Commonly referred to as KCS or dry eye, keratoconjunctivitis sicca causes a decrease in tear production. This causes irritation to the eye if it is too dry and therefore also blepharospasm.

Distichiasis

Some dogs, like shih tzus, are prone to developing eye lashes that grow in the eyelid margins. This causes irritation on the cornea and sometimes blepharospasm is also seen.

Ectopic cilium

Similar to distichiasis, ectopic cilium are eye lashes that grow on the inside of the eyelids. Like distichiasis, it can cause blepharospasm.

Blastomycosis

A type of fungal infection, about half of the dogs that develop blastomycosis experience eye issues that can also cause blepharospasm.

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

Diagnosing Blepharospasm in Dogs

It is often simple for a veterinarian to diagnose your dog with blepharospasm since this involuntary eye twitch is usually quite obvious. The more important diagnosis that must be made is the underlying reason for the blepharospasm. This often requires a variety of eye tests, such as Schirmer tear tests and flourescein eye staining along with sedation to properly examine the eye, eye lids, and tear ducts.

Treatment of Blepharospasm in Dogs

The treatment for blepharospasm will depend on the underlying cause. Topical eye drops and ointments are common treatments for a variety of eye issues but some issues, like distichiasis, may require surgery, cauterization, or other procedures.

Prevention of Blepharospasm in Dogs

The best way to prevent blepharospasm from occurring in your dog is to keep its eyes healthy and safe. Don't allow your dog to rub its face on the ground or paw at its face excessively, be in work areas with airborne debris such as when you are sanding, using saws, or creating excessive dust, or stick its head out the window of a moving vehicle. Avoiding these types of situations that can cause injury to a dog's eye as well as taking your dog to the veterinarian for regular examinations can help keep its eyes healthy and therefore prevent blepharospasm.

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.