A drooping jowl, eye issues, and trouble eating: These were the first signs that something was wrong with Leo, the the Coller couple’s 9-year-old parti-colored Sable Cocker Spaniel. A health issue was brewing and it progressed to blindness. The health condition threatened their dog’s vision.
“Leo first showed the onset of the condition in February of this year,” Tom Coller of Morenci, Michigan says. “It is a quite common neurological disorder of the eye and facial muscles. The condition usually occurs suddenly and is due to a dysfunction of the sympathetic nerves of the eyes and surrounding facial muscles and may be caused by inner ear infections, spinal injuries, blunt trauma, disc disease or tumors.”
All dog parents should be aware of the condition, what to watch for, when to call a veterinarian so dogs can be checked immediately.
Bell’s Palsy and Horner’s Syndrome
Bell’s Palsy is a weakness or paralysis of the muscles on one side of the face. Our last Cocker Spaniel was afflicted with this condition, which self resolved in two weeks.
For Coller’s dog, Leo, a related condition called Horner’s Syndrome was diagnosed. A drooping eye, an eyelid that protrudes, or a severely constricted pupil are all characteristics of Horner’s syndrome. It can affect any breed of dog but seems to be prominent in Golden Retrievers, according to petMD.
After dealing with a lower back injury and being treated with steroids and a pain medication, the Collers saw an improvement in Leo. He soon developed an ear infection and had an ongoing ear cleaning routine to keep the floppy, heavy ears of Cocker Spaniels.
“We noticed his left eye and jowl had considerable drooping and he had trouble eating as his tongue wasn’t working on the left side as well,” Coller remembers. “He had trouble eating as his tongue wasn’t working on the left side as well.”
Vision problems, depth perception, and a bit of a droopy jowl came next. In late July of 2014, the couple noticed more severe vision problems. Leo’s eye pupils appeared normal but very dilated. He was going blind.
In the Dark
Leo’s veterinarian reports the Horner’s caused optic nerve damage and the blindness results. What the Collers dubbed their “little ball playing fool” (spaniel parents can relate) became a depressed little boy who could no longer see.
In most cases, Horner’s syndrome causes are idiopathic, or unknown. It can also be caused by a brain tumor or injury, spinal cord lesion, or infection.
Long term, Leo may or may not regain his sight. The Collers have made it a point to make the best of a rough situation.
He wanders through the house, follows his Cocker family members, and uses a “Babble Ball” that makes noise to play. His dad reports that though Leo sometimes bumps into things, he keeps right on going and has not let the blindness slow him down.
When he could see, Leo would lay across the back of the recliner. He has managed to find his way to the back of the recliner and his Cocker tenacious spirit prevails!
“I am amazed to the degree of adjustment to his sudden onset of blindness he has made,” his dog dad shares.
Symptoms To Watch For
Here are five symptoms to watch for in your own dog. Keep in mind, dogs need not have all these symptoms and the symptoms maybe be indicative of other health issues, so seek veterinary care immediately if your dog has:
- Smaller size eye pupil (miosis)
- Abnormal elevation of inner eyelid – located between cornea and inner corner of eyelids (third eyelid)
- Drooping of upper eyelid
- Eyes appear sunken into eye socket
- Inflammation of ear
You can read more about Horner’s Syndrome from petMD here.
Never Give Up
For dogs who go blind or who are blind, with the right guidance and a loving dog mom/dad, they can and do thrive.
June Myers of Oklahoma has a dog, 15-1/2 years young, Buster, who lost his vision and he does incredibly well with love, guidance, and his cat family member, Jack.
Leo listens when the ball is bounced his way.
Leo follows the sounds to find what he wants.
Leo is learning directions and knows the way when his parents say “left, right, in front of you, behind you, back, forward and so on.”
Leo is a brave little guy who is eager to please and to give love.
We’re following the message of Leo and keeping our chin up and facing whatever life throws our way, including a tennis ball.
How about you?