Potential eye problems that can develop in brachycephalic dogs

Potential eye problems that can develop in brachycephalic dogs

Health & Safety

Brachycephalic dogs are cute, popular and personable, but they are also collectively at a far higher risk of health issues as a result of their conformations than dogs with normal-length muzzles, the latter of which are natural and the healthy norm for dogs as a species.

Many of these health issues are respiratory, which is well publicised, and often how bad such problems are relates directly to how flat the face of the affected dog is. However, a flat face also causes changes to the conformation of the eyes too, which can result in eye problems in brachycephalic dogs as well.

This article will outline the most common potential eye problems that can develop in brachycephalic dogs as a result of their facial conformation. Read on to learn more.


Proptosis is the name given to a fairly freaky-looking eye condition that can affect brachycephalic dogs with very protruding eyes; it most commonly occurs in pugs, and happens more frequently than you might think. What is proptosis? It is when the dog’s eye literally pops out of its socket.

This might sound like an urban legend, or something you only see in cartoons, but it is indeed a real threat to brachycephalic dogs with prominent eyes.


Entropion is the term used to refer to eyelids that roll inwards towards the eye, so that they rub on the eyeball itself. As you might expect this is painful and irritating for the dog, and such a condition develops in brachycephalic dogs with specific conformation anomalies in their construction of their eyes.


Ectropion is the opposite of entropion, but once more happens for the same reason, being an unusual conformation of the dog’s eye. Ectropion causes the eyelids to roll outwards, displaying the red mucous membranes within, and making them vulnerable to collecting debris and once more, becoming sore and irritated.


Distichiasis occurs when the eyelashes grow abnormally, and instead of curving outwards away from the eye as they are meant to, and into a position where they actually serve the purpose of helping to keep dirt and foreign bodies from entering the eye, cause problems instead.

If the eyelashes grow crookedly or inwards, they can actually rub the eyes and poke into the eyeball, which is painful and likely to result in inflammation and discomfort for the affected dog, which can only be resolved with removal of the eyelashes causing the problem.

Abnormal tear production

Dogs need to produce liquid from their tear ducts to provide lubrication for their eyes to keep them moist and clear, and to help to remove dirt and contaminants from the eye. Many brachycephalic dogs have problems with tear production for various reasons, either because the tear ducts are positioned incorrectly, are obstructed, or cannot drain properly, due to the conformation of the brachycephalic face.

At best, this can result in problems like tear staining in affected dogs that may simply be largely cosmetic, but it can also result in overly dry eyes, irritations and infections, and the need to provide artificial lubrication for the eyes or even perform an operation to correct the tear ducts’ positioning to enable them to function more effectively.

Nasal fold trichiasis

This condition in brachycephalic dogs develops due to the shape and positioning of the nose and eyes, and tends to develop only in dogs with very wrinkled or exaggerated features and very flat faces.

It causes the fur on and alongside of the dog’s nasal folds to actually make contact with their eyes and rub them, causing the same pain, inflammation, soreness, and risk of other complications that other eye occlusions do in their turn.


Lagophthalmia is the result of a brachycephalic conformation defect that makes affected dogs physically unable to fully close their eyelids. This result in a wide range of problems that are uncomfortable and can cause permanent vision loss, such as the eyes drying out, the development of ulcers, and a number of other significant issues too.

Macropalpebral fissures

Macropalpebral fissures often, but not exclusively, occurs as a secondary complication of entropion or ectropion in dogs, and this is the name given to the fissures or sores that can develop on the dog’s eyes if they are irritated by rubbing eyelids or other conformation issues.

Seriously affected dogs suffer from macropalpebral fissure syndrome, which is a collective of problems that can ultimately cause blindness as well as pain and discomfort.

Brachycephalic ocular syndrome

Finally, brachycephalic ocular syndrome is more of a collective of eye problems that can develop in brachycephalic dogs (sometimes in combination) than a single or standalone issue and effect.

The term is used for the multiple eye problems that can develop in brachycephalic dogs in much the same way that brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome or BOAS is used for a collection of brachycephalic respiratory problems.

Brachycephalic ocular syndrome tends to come with three main symptoms in affected dogs, being protruding eyes, abnormally shaped eyelids that don’t function properly, and an inability for affected dogs to fully close their eyes. All of these issues combined can themselves cause multiple other secondary eye issues too.



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