What does the vet say?

Cocker spaniel’s eye problem

Q: I’m worried about our cocker spaniel Pip who seems to have a problem.  Here’s a picture of my cocker spaniel’s eye. I have been to the vet who has told me it is only an infection and gave me some eye drops but I am not so sure.  As you can see in the picture, there is a film in the lower right corner of her right eye. The pupil also appears to be ‘off-centre’.

Every morning we have to wipe her eyes to clean them up. The gunk only appears over-night, unlike true conjunctivitis.

What’s the issue here?

I am afraid I agree with you and not your vet. It doesn’t look like this is a simple conjunctivitis.

Poor Pip.  I am afraid it looks like she is suffering from Horner’s syndrome (named after the Swiss ophthalmologist, Johann Friedrich Horner), which is a fairly common unilateral neurological disorder of the eye.

The picture clearly shows paralysis of the third eyelid (in the inside lower corner of the eye). This makes it look like the pupil is out of position. Additionally, there is ptosis (drooping of the eyelids), miosis (constriction of the pupil) and enophthalmus (recession of the eyeball into the socket).

The conjunctiva often looks red and poor lid movement results in the overnight gunk. There is no real treatment and, bluntly, patients either get better or they don’t.

Over time you may notice Pip suffering from wasting of the right side facial muscles.

The cause?

Often the reason for the eye problem is not discovered. However possibilities for it occurring could include:

  • Middle ear infections producing head shaking and loss of balance
  • Recent jugular blood sampling
  • Bite wounds to the neck
  • Facial trauma

The condition is more common in golden retrievers than working cocker spaniels and generally in middle age to older dogs, although this won’t console. In rare cases there could also be a thoracic, mediastinal or spinal tumour – but I stress that this is in rare cases.