Eye health is vital for our Doodles. So you can imagine how distressing it can be when you encounter an eye problem you have never heard of before. Today we are going to talk about Horner’s Syndrome. What is it, and what are the 3 classic signs of Horner’s Syndrome? Let’s take a look at how this happens and what you can do to help your furry friend.
What Is Horner’s Syndrome?
Believe it or not, Horner’s is a common neurological disorder of the eye. There are many delicate nerves in the eyes, and most of these nerves control automatic responses. What cranial nerves are affected in Horner’s Syndrome?
Specifically, these nerves we speak of are called the sympathetic nervous system that controls most automatic functions of the body. This part of the autonomic nervous system controls blinking and eye dilation without consciously thinking about them. Horner’s Syndrome is damage to these nerves that prevent them from working correctly.
But you don’t need to know all of the medical terms for what is happening here. Basically, these are a lot of fancy words for saying that your dog’s eyes have lost signal to the brain. Without these signals going back and forth to the eyes, your dog will lose control of things that are automatic for everyone else.
What Can Cause Horner’s Syndrome In Dogs?
There are many common causes of Horner’s Syndrome. Things like trauma, blood clots, and neurological diseases can cause the eye nerves to malfunction. But to narrow down the underlying cause, you must first know where the damage is at. Then you can start a specific treatment plan.
1) Central Lesions:
When the damage to the eye happens in nerves before they exit the spinal cord, we call this a central lesion. The most common reasons for this type of problem are blood clots, trauma, and undiagnosed tumors. These are also called first-order Horner’s Syndrome.
2) Preganglionic Lesions
Another area of nerve damage could lie between the spinal cord and the nerve synapses. A synapse is a space between two nerves where transmissions pass. So what could cause injury to this area? In most cases, trauma to the neck and chest cavity is to blame. We call this in the medical field as second-order Horner’s.
3) Postganglionic Lesions:
Finally, we have the injury between the synapse and the eye. These usually have an underlying cause, such as middle ear diseases, inner ear disease, chronic inner ear infections, or rough ear cleaning. And of course, this type of lesion is also called third-order Horner’s Syndrome.
If you know the onset of Horner, you can treat it to resolve any eye problems. But while knowing where to find the lesion helps resolve the issues, most are idiopathic Horner’s Syndrome. Or in other words, there is no known cause for the lesion to appear in the first place.
What Does Horner’s Syndrome Look Like In Dogs?
Now we can talk about the 3 classic signs of Horner’s Syndrome in Doodle Dogs. Let’s look at the most common eye symptoms together. If you notice any of the signs below, you will want to speak with your vet to get a diagnosis.
If your Doodle has had sudden droopy eyelids, Horner’s Syndrome might be to blame. It will cause your dog’s upper eyelid to droop on the affected side and make it difficult to open. Drooping lids typically only happen in one lid, but it can affect both eyes if the lesion is severe. In some cases, you might also see some signs of facial muscles drooping a bit. But since many other diseases cause sagging, you will want to look for more symptoms.
Another common symptom of Horner’s Syndrome is pupils that can’t dilate. These small pupils are a direct sign of dysfunction of the sympathetic nerves of the eyes. These constricted pupils can also make it difficult for dogs to see, especially at night. Typically, our pupil size adjusts to let as much light into them as we need to see. In bright places, our eyes constrict to reduce glare, and in the dark, they dilate. But without dilation, your dog might dump into things or get lost easily.
The last most common symptom of Horner’s Syndrome is sunken eyes. Your dog’s eyeball will appear to sink into the skull. And often, there is a protrusion of the third eyelid. Most people call this third eyelid swelling a cherry eye. And it can look very irritated and red.
These symptoms can all happen in one or both eyes, depending on where the injury occurs. And since the symptoms of Horner’s can also be signs of an allergic reaction or other diseases, it’s always best not to self-diagnose.
What Can You Do For Horner’s Syndrome In Dogs?
The first step is always to get a proper diagnosis from a vet. In most cases, they can confirm Horner’s Syndrome without any diagnostic tests. Your vet will examine the eye and ask a few questions about recent activity. With the common clinical signs of Horner’s, your vet can give a diagnosis easily. If your dog gets for the first time, a vet might prescribe phenylephrine drops.
These eye drops will dilate the eyes and help the nerves heal. But these eye drops only help with postganglionic lesions. So if your dog hasn’t seen improvement in six weeks using the drops, then your Doodle might have central or preganglionic lesions.
If the drops aren’t working, your doctor’s next step is to run extra diagnostic tests. Things like CT scans, MRIs, bloodwork, and x-rays will help your doctor pinpoint the area of damage. Currently, there are no veterinary medicine treatments that can treat Horner’s Syndrome. So
If your Doodle heals and then develops Horner’s again, there might be underlying causes. Chronic health issues could make your dog develop eye problems like Horner’s repeatedly. So once your dog’s conditions resolve, they won’t have issues with Horner’s again.
Is Horner’s Syndrome Painful?
Sometimes Horner’s Syndrome can look like it might cause severe pain. But in reality, there usually isn’t much pain at all. Since this syndrome is caused by nerves that aren’t receiving signals, the area can be completely numb. The only discomfort your dog will have is the uneasy feeling of not seeing correctly.
Most dogs who have Horner’s Syndrome don’t even slow down. They still run and play like nothing ever happened. They might get concerned about your distress because they have no clue what is causing it. However, if your dog is scratching and rubbing its eye, it might feel a little irritating. You can ask your vet about eye drops or pain reliever to make your dog comfortable.
Can Horner’s Syndrome Go Away On Its Own?
You might have one fundamental question still lingering in the back of your mind. Does Horner’s Syndrome go away? In most cases, the eye will repair itself without any medical interference. So how long does Horner’s Syndrome last in dogs?
Most dogs recover with no other complications within 6-16 weeks, depending on the type of lesion there is. During this time, your dog will need lots of rest and eye drops to feel better. But if other complications cause the eye problem, then the issue will reappear. That is why it’s so essential to get your dog checked out by a vet.
If the issue comes up again in the future, your vet might refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist. From here, the specialist will examine the eyes and have a better idea as to why the condition keeps reoccurring.
Are Certain Dog Breeds More Prone To It?
So we know how to identify the 3 classic signs of Horner’s Syndrome in Doodle dogs. But are there certain breeds that are prone to it? Horner’s Syndrome can happen to any dog breed at any time. But breeds such as:
- Colliedoodle (Collies )
- Goldendoodle (Golden Retrievers)
- Shepadoodle (German Shepherd)
- Labradoodle (Labrador Retrievers)
- Cockerdoodle (Cocker Spaniels) can be especially prone to eye troubles. So if your Doodle is mixed with any of these breeds, eye health is critical.
What Can I Do To Prevent Horner’s Syndrome?
Since Horner’s Syndrome in dogs results from underlying health issues, check-ups are one way to keep your dog healthy. But in many cases, you won’t know what causes sudden trauma. Let alone predict the future to prevent it from happening.
The best you can do for your Doodle is to keep them healthy and active. With their immunities boosted and good health, then your dog will make a speedy recovery.
Horner’s Syndrome Can Be Scary At First
Once you know what it is and that most dogs get over it on their own, you can calm down. All you need to know are the 3 classic signs of Horner’s Syndrome in Doodle dogs. Once you know the symptoms, then your dog can be on the mend much quicker. Even if medical conditions are causing the nerve pathway disruptions, it is fixable. And your Doodle will be running and playing again soon.
Below is a Pinterest-friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Doodle Board!