My Dog’s Eye Rolls Back in its Head – Common Reasons

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Strange eye movements in dogs can indicate a serious problem that requires medical attention. 

While your dog’s eye-rolling might seem adorable at first glance, it might actually be indicative of a problem that needs to be addressed. The more you learn about this behavior, the easier it will be to care for your dog.

1. Seizure

It is possible that your dog’s eye-rolling is due to a seizure. The fact is that not all seizures look the same. Sometimes the only noticeable symptom is strange eye movements. You might also notice that your dog seems confused and disoriented for a short amount of time.

Another common sign of a seizure in dogs is excessive drooling. If your dog seems unresponsive while its eyes are rolled back in its head, they are likely having a seizure. This is caused by abnormal activity in the brain. 

There are numerous medications and treatments that can be effective at preventing seizures in dogs. The sooner you get your pet to the veterinarian, the sooner you can help them get relief.

2. Eye Injury

Your dog could be rolling its eyes due to an injury it sustained at some point. It can be difficult to see the injury if it is on their third eyelid. They might have gotten their eyelid scratched by another animal or a household accident.

When you take your dog to the vet, they will be able to run tests to see if there are any injuries to your dog’s eye. If you notice their third eyelid coming up frequently, this is likely the case. Any injuries to their eye need to be treated promptly to avoid infection and minimize pain.

3. Nystagmus

A condition known as Nystagmus may also be causing your dog’s eye to roll back in its head. This condition causes involuntary eye-rolling and other movements. Sometimes a dog’s eyes will move rapidly from side to side.

Nystagmus is typically something that dogs have from birth, though these animals can also develop it as they get older. 

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Some of the other symptoms associated with this condition include:

  • Clumsiness
  • Rolling
  • Lack of proper coordination
  • Walking in circles
  • Tilting of head

You’ll need to make a point of getting your dog to the vet as quickly as possible if you suspect they have this condition. It can usually be treated quite effectively, but the age of your dog is a big factor. There are various tests that your vet can perform to determine if this is indeed the case of their eye-rolling.

4. Tumor

A tumor on your dog’s eye could be causing strange ocular behavior like rolling. It is also possible that they have a cyst, which isn’t quite as serious but still requires treatment. These growths can even form on the dog’s eyelid, which can produce a similar reaction.

5. Vestibular Disease

Dogs with the vestibular disease sometimes roll their eyes. This disease typically results from an infection of the middle or inner ear, and it can be quite serious. You may also notice that your dog has a strange gait. While it is most common in senior dogs, it can occur at any age.

6. Cherry Eye

A condition called Cherry Eye that results in a prolapsed of the third eyelid can also be responsible for eye-rolling. This commonly occurs in younger dogs that are just one or two years old. If this is the case, you will notice your dog’s third eyelid sticking out. It becomes inflamed and bright red.

7. Medications

There are certain medications that can cause a dog’s eyes to roll back in its head, specifically tranquilizers and opiate pain killers. It is important that you are aware of all the potential side effects of any medication you give your dog. Your veterinarian should also explain the side effects when prescribing a medication for them.

If your dog’s eyes are rolling back after receiving a pain relief medication, it just means they are very relaxed, so there’s nothing to worry about. Just make sure that you do not give them more than the recommended dose. It is important that you follow the instructions that came with the medication to avoid any issues.

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8. Pain

Severe pain can cause a dog to roll its eyes as well. This pain could be coming from anywhere on or inside your dog’s body.

Some of the more common signs of a dog in pain include:

  • Whining or barking more than usual
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargic behavior
  • Pacing back and forth
  • Restlessness at night
  • Excessive drooling
  • Sudden weight loss

It can be difficult to tell what the source of your dog’s pain is, which is why you need to see your veterinarian. They should be able to determine what the source of your dog’s discomfort is by performing the appropriate tests.

You will need to make a point of taking your dog to the vet right away if you notice any of the symptoms listed above. The sooner you do this, the sooner your dog can get the relief it needs.


  • Your dog’s eye-rolling could be due to a partial seizure. If they are unresponsive while rolling their eyes, this is likely the case.
  • An injury to your dog’s third eyelid could also be causing eye-rolling and other strange ocular movements.
  • Nystagmus is a congenital condition that can also cause eye-rolling in dogs. Some dogs develop it as they get older.
  • A tumor on your dog’s eye or eyelid may be responsible for their eyes rolling into their head. The tumor could be benign or malignant, but it’s important to have your dog looked at just to make sure.
  • A condition called Cherry Eye causes a dog’s third eyelid to become inflamed and stick out, which often leads to eye-rolling.
  • There are a number of medications that can cause eye-rolling dogs, including muscle relaxers.
Written by:

Hi! I'm Anna and I´m a certified cynologist (KAU, ACW). Handler, blue cross volunteer, owner of Chinese crested kennel "Salvador Dali" and breedless friend called Fenya. "I can't imagine my life without dogs and I totally support the idea #AdoptDontShop".