What Is Strabismus In Boston Terriers?


Boston Terrier with Strabismus

Boston Terriers have many robust features, whether it’s their distinct coloring, prominent muzzle, or tilted head. Most notable of all, is there big eyes that prominently stick out of their head. 

My Boston Terrier, Nickel, has large eyes that are often shining with excitement or scrutinizing every move of the food in my hand. 

These prominent eyes are a feature shared by the Boston Terrier community. Yet, these big eyes can bring with them more medical problems, like strabismus, than other dog breeds. 

What Is Strabismus?

Strabismus is a strange and unusual, fixed position of at least one eye. Typically, our eyes move as we look around, but strabismus keeps one or more eyes fixated on a particular spot. This can make the dog look like it has a “lazy eye,” or is cross-eyed depending on how their eye is fixated.

If your Boston Terrier has strabismus, you will likely notice that they do not trace objects with their eye/s. And one eye appears fixated. 

Boston Terriers can have strabismus in one or both eyes. 

Strabismus does not commonly cause vision problems and is mostly a cosmetic affliction. Humans and cats can also have this condition. 

What Causes Strabismus?

Strabismus is caused by an imbalance in the muscles controlling the eye. Just like us, Boston Terriers have many muscles behind their eyes that control the movement and keep their eyes focused straight when at rest. 

If one of these eye muscles is weaker or stronger than the rest, it will leave the eye pointed in an abnormal direction permanently. 

The eye sockets are still in their normal location, but the eye is stuck at a strange angle defines strabismus. 

Is Strabismus Hereditary?

Boston Terriers are more prone to genetic, inherited strabismus. This is why it often shows up in Boston Terrier puppies. 

Strabismus is thought to be in Boston’s, when compared to other dog breeds, because of their generally weaker eye muscles. 

This does not mean that older Boston Terriers can not develop strabismus; however, especially when it’s from injury or other medical conditions. 

Will My Boston Terrier Puppy Outgrow Strabismus?

Puppies with strabismus usually have it as a result of a genetic condition, so it’s unlikely they would ever outgrow it. 

However, it’s generally not considered a severe health problem and is unlikely to cause them any harm throughout their life.

What Medical Conditions Can Lead To Strabismus?

Strabismus is often genetic but may be due to several underlying medical conditions.

If your Boston Terrier develops strabismus, have your dog screened by a veterinarian for potential underlying problems that could be far more dangerous to their health.

Here are the most common causes of developing strabismus:

Injury Or Trauma

If a dog has a direct injury to their eye or head, it could result in nerve damage, which could lead to developed strabismus in one or both eyes. 

Vestibular System

The vestibular system promotes balance in the body. This system is found in your ear as well as your Boston’s. 

According to Neuroscientifically, The vestibular system is a sensory system that is responsible for providing our brain with information about motion, head position, and spatial orientation.

If your Boston Terrier has an ineffective or weakened vestibular system, they could have strabismus as a result. 

Common signs of vestibular system problems include your dog not maintaining their balance. Being fearful of jumping off surfaces should they land badly, or showing signs of dizziness. 

Stroke

Having a stroke can leave your dog imbalanced and with damage on one side of their body. This can result in permanent strabismus or on the flip side constant eye movement.

Ear Infections

Ear infections can affect the eyes and increase head tilting, which can then further irritate the eye. 

If your Boston Terrier is scratching at their ears or showing any ear or eye discomfort, having them seen by a veterinarian would be prudent. 

If you suspect any of these conditions to have caused sudden strabismus, immediately consult your veterinarian. While strabismus is not usually considered dangerous, trauma, vestibular system issues, ear infections, or a stroke can all be hazardous to your Boston Terrier. 

You must get them checked out. 

Side Effects Of Strabismus

Frequently, strabismus only affects the position of the eye and leaves our puppies with no other malicious side effects. 

However, there are some instances of strabismus that can come with adverse or odd side effects like the following: 

  • Difficulty walking due to balance issues
  • Constant head tilting
  • Appetite loss
  • Unusual pupil sizing (very enlarged or small pupils)

Check with your veterinarian right away if you notice any of these symptoms in your Boston Terrier to see what can be done to improve their condition. 

If your Boston Terrier has had this condition since puppyhood, they are more likely to have the genetic version of strabismus. And in this case, strabismus is a purely cosmetic condition with no negative impact on the health of the dog.

What Can A Veterinarian Do For A Dog With Genetic Strabismus?

A veterinarian will likely do a multitude of things to determine what should be done to best help your Boston Terrier. 

It will be essential to let your veterinarian know when you noticed your Boston Terrier’s strabismus. Was this something that they’ve had since puppyhood, or did they suddenly develop the condition? 

If the condition is genetic, there are typically fewer complications, and your veterinarian may recommend no treatment at all. 

What Can A Veterinarian Do For A Dog Who Develops Strabismus?

If your Boston Terrier suddenly developed strabismus, your veterinarian will probably perform a multitude of tests to look for any causes. 

This could involve blood work, physical exams, scans, and asking you a variety of questions to try and narrow down a reason for the sudden development. 

Ear infections and other medical conditions are a common cause of sudden strabismus in Boston Terriers, and treating the underlying cause will be critical to their recovery. 

Medication may be prescribed to treat underlying medical problems, such as vestibular system imbalances. 

More importantly, your veterinarian will determine if your Boston Terrier is in any pain or discomfort. They will assess what can be done to give them the best quality of life. 

Is My Boston Terrier In Pain From Their Strabismus?

It’s unlikely that your Boston Terrier is in pain from their strabismus, especially if it’s a genetic condition for them. If they are in any pain, it’s likely due to an underlying condition associated with their strabismus. 

Have them checked out by their veterinarian to eliminate any worries or fears that they may be in pain. 

Can Strabismus In Dogs Be Cured?

Yes and no. Strabismus can be improved upon through eye exercises with your Boston Terrier. However, it’s not generally fixable. 

Most of the time, there is little reason for something as extensive as surgery because strabismus doesn’t typically cause distress or pain to the dog.

What kind of eye muscle exercises can you do to improve strabismus for dogs?

There are a few exercises humans can do to improve their eye muscle strength, but you are going to have to think outside the box when it comes to your dog.

One exercise you can do to improve the eye muscle strength of your Boston Terrier is to have your dog follow your finger.

  1. Hold your finger out in front of your dog and ensure they focus on it.
  2. Now, slowly move your finger to your dog’s nose as their eyes follow.
  3. You can also move your finger from one side of their face to the next as they follow with their eyes.

Before you start trying to do this on your own, be sure to consult your veterinarian to see what they think.

Wrapping It Up

Boston Terriers are one of the most common dog breeds to develop or be born with strabismus. Their eyes are beautiful, big, but sensitive, and prone to weak eye muscles. It’s important that we keep an eye on them. 

If your Boston Terrier has or suddenly develops strabismus, please consult with a veterinarian to eliminate any potentially malicious underlying causes. 

Otherwise, embrace your Boston Terrier’s unique and “dorky” look. They only have eyes for you anyways!

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Amy Norton

Amy Norton is a freelance lifestyle blog post writer who spends her days writing with her Boston Terrier at her feet snoring. She grew up with two Boston Terriers and now has her own Boston Terrier, Nickel, who is a spunky and playful dog. Amy regularly takes Nickel to Sonics for mozzarella sticks to "pay" her for all of her help in the writing process. Amy's favorite activities are reading, baking, and creating content for her YouTube channel.

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