There may truly nothing more shocking for an owner to see than a proptosed eyeball. A proptosed eyeball, otherwise known as exophthalmos, is the medical term for an eyeball that has popped forward out of its socket, and it really is a disturbing sight. This condition generally occurs secondarily to trauma, such as being hit by a car or being involved in a dog fight, so other injuries may also have been sustained.

Breeds prone to proptosed eyeballs

Short-faced, or brachycephalic, dogs are particularly prone to this condition. This includes Pekingese, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, Bulldogs and any other short-faced pooch. For these dogs, the condition can occur not only secondarily to trauma, but also occasionally from excessive restraint or pressure on their necks.

Proptosed eyes are much less common in cats, even brachycephalic breeds like Himalayans and Persians. Simply because of their conformation, cats who have proptosed eyes have generally sustained a great deal more trauma than their canine counterparts.

What steps to take

If you’re thinking that a proptosed eye is a veterinary emergency, you’re right. When the eye pops out of the socket, immediately the optic nerve is stretched. When the nerve fibers are stretched, they are damaged. Within 30 minutes, the nerve fibers begin to die, which inevitably results in blindness. In fact, only about 30% of patients with proptosed eyes retain vision in the affected eye.

If this unfortunate condition occurs in your pet, try to remain calm. Call your veterinarian to let them know that you are on your way, and keep the eyeball moist with saline or moist compresses – do not try to replace the eyeball yourself.


Once you’ve arrived, your veterinarian will assess your pet’s condition. She will discuss the options for your pet, which will depend on when the accident occurred and the prognosis for retained vision. If there is no hope of saving the vision of the eye, your veterinarian may recommend enucleation, or removal of the eye.

For some owners, the thought of their furry family member without an eye, even with a blind eye, is very difficult to bear. But most pets can live perfectly happily with just one eye, after a period of adjustment.

If you are concerned about how your pet will look, your veterinarian can try to salvage the eye for cosmetic purposes only, replacing it back into the socket under anesthesia. However, this should only be performed for the most dedicated of owners, as the eye will need post-operative management that may last for the pet’s lifetime.

Possible complications

Whether the replaced eye has vision or not, it is also more likely to develop other conditions over time. These conditions include keratitis (inflammation of the cornea), strabismus (crossed eyes) and glaucoma, all of which may require daily treatment. Having dog insurance from Petplan can help manage the costs of these conditions - as well as any pet health emergencies that may arise.

A proptosed eye is a true emergency. Not only is it a painful condition, but time is of the essence when attempting to retain vision. Though it can be shocking and scary to see your pet that way, your pet is counting on you to keep your cool – so they can keep their sight.

Nov 15, 2012
Pet Health

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