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Dog's swollen eye and decreased mobility

by Jane Hare
(Yellowknife, NT, Canada)

I have a 10 year old male Labrador Retriever (Howie) who has had a swollen, red and itchy left eye for at least 2 months.

His eye seemed to worsen over the last month with a droopy appearance and in the last week his third eyelid seems to be covering at least half of his eye. He is frequently rubbing his eye against things (our legs, furniture etc.) as if it is itchy. There has not been any discharge or tearing.

We live in a semi-arid climate and I often have to use natural tear eye drops for myself. For many years he's had a very tiny fatty tumor on that eye that has not grown on his top eyelid (like a skin tag) and as a young dog he slightly cut his bottom left eyelid on a stick that healed with a slight droop.

I took him to the vet a week ago and he said it could be some type of allergy to something but he wasn't sure. He prescribed an ointment (BNPH - Vetoquinol) to be used in both of his eyes for 5 days. The ointment seemed to worsen his eye and may have even caused slight redness in his unaffected eye. I have stopped using the ointment.

Howie's history:
He was a very active seasonal hunting dog (duck retriever) with a gentle and calm personality. About 10 months ago he lost his Dad (my husband) in a tragic accident who he was very close with. Although I think he suffered from grief and stress for a while he now seems to have a good quality of life with daily light walks and his spirit seems good.

In the last year his mobility has declined in general (running, jumping up and down off of things), but most notably around 8 months ago he started gradually limping where he would even avoid weight bearing on his right hind leg and it would shake or he would go over on his toes slightly by accident. He was most stiff after lying down and could move better a little while after he got up. We needed to help his hind
end up any stairs and he couldn't really jump. Accompanying this, he had severe muscle wasting to both hind legs and lost a significant amount of weight (~8lbs) over a few weeks. He also was lethargic and didn't seem to be eating or drinking much. At the time I was feeding him 2x/day Acana dry dogfood (Grasslands).

After a couple vet appointments I was told that he likely has Arthritis and then he later did blood tests which were normal, prescribed anti-inflammatories (Deramaxx), and recommended an Xray which I have not done yet. After a 10 day course of the anti-inflammatories and drastically altering his food to a homemade diet (raw or cooked ground turkey, beef or bison, with brown rice, omega 3-6-9, Cranimals antioxidants, Lecithin, Glucosamine Condtroitin MSM, a multivitamin, and mixed with healthy table scraps - he's always been a very picky eater!), his food intake increased drastically and his mobility seemed to improve even after stopping the anti-inflammatories. Although he is still a little stiff and slow, he doesn't limp or shake his leg anymore and is able to get onto a couch or up stairs with minimal help. He does not seem to be in as much pain but it is hard to tell with dogs. Even with his improvement in mobility and increased intake, I was surprised on our last vet appointment for his eye that his weight remained static (even decreased by 1/2 pound) when I thought he would have gained.

So, my questions are:
1. What do you think is going on with his eye?
2. Do you think his eye and history with above mobility issues is related?
3. Is there anything further I should be doing for his mobility issues and potential pain/stiffness?
3. Keeping in mind that we live in a very remote city in northern Canada (Yellowknife) with access to only one vet who does not really use a wholistic or homeopathic approach or have sophisticated diagnostic equipment beyond xray, what do you think my treatment options are for above?

I have attached some photos of his eye.
I really appreciate your help and look forward to your response.


Comments for Dog's swollen eye and decreased mobility

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Jun 03, 2012
My Online Vet Response for: Dog's Swollen eye and decreased mobility
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Jane,
My impression of your yellow Lab, Howie, from the photos you sent, make me suspicious of several problems. I would want to rule out the following: a tumor behind his left eye, glaucoma, or a systemic illness such as an autoimmune disease or Lyme Disease.

You wrote,
"He is frequently rubbing his eye against things (our legs, furniture etc.) as if it is itchy". I would be worried that his eye does not feel itchy, but that Howie feels pain, and that is why he is rubbing it. I suggest that you take him to the next big town, where a veterinary ophthalmologist can examine him, and also get an x-ray of his spine and hips to rule out arthritis.

Once there is a diagnosis, then a treatment plan can be worked out. It sounds like you have have done a remarkable job with improvement of diet and supplements. I would only add that he should NOT receive any more vaccinations. A holistic veterinarian would be able to write an exemption for him.

Click here to find a holistic veterinarian in your area. Another resource for vets knowledgeable in homeopathy is

Take care,
Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

DISCLAIMER: This educational advice is based on the depth of your question and the picture you submitted. The above should never replace the advice of your local veterinarian, as they have the ability to evaluate your dog in person.

Jun 03, 2012
further history that may be relevant
by: Jane Hare

As part of Howie's history I did leave out a skin issue he struggled with for a couple months that I initially thought may not be relevant as it had resolved a while back but now I'm thinking with your response that it could be important.

Prior to the obvious decline in his mobility, around 10 months ago during our warmer season where he was in the water a lot, Howie started having hair loss with coin size patches of scabbing and raw skin that was most obvious in his groin and underarm area, and then was found to be all over his body. He was extremely lethargic with poor appetite. I worried that he got it from frequently going in some stagnant water that may not have been too clean where my late husband did retriever training with him.

The vet was not sure what it was and did not think it was 'hot spots' but potentially an allergic reaction to some kind of bug or mite or bacteria build-up from over oily skin?

He shaved the most affected areas and prescribed an oral antibiotic (Novalexin) for 3 weeks, Viaderm cream (I had also tried Traumeel that I got from a Naturopath with limited success) to put on the spots and a daily antiseptic wash.

He improved and then it came back within a few weeks and he went on another round of above but with a different shampoo (Pyoben). We kept him out of water completely and the weather turned more cold and dry and this time it went away completely and never came back.

So, in the last year, he has had problem with above skin issue, decreased mobility (stiffness, lameness) and now his left eye problem.

Is anyone able to shed some light on what might be going on?


Jun 04, 2012
My Online Vet Response for: Dog's swollen eye and decreased mobility
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Jane,
The additional info that you have provided regarding the severe skin eruptions, (possibly from bacteria and/or yeast), that recurred after two courses of antibiotics, certainly makes it seem that Howie may have a depressed immune system.

The raw diet, and supplements you are giving now are very good. Here are some suggestions for more specific immune system supplements that you might want to check into. He may not need them all, but at least ONE of the following would help:

Immuplex by Standard Process - Give one capsule opened and sprinkled in his food TWO times daily.


OrthoMolecular Specialties, Mega C Powder


Missing Link powder for dogs

Also, I am not sure if the 'grief' factor is what is contributing to his 'decline'. With a weakened immune system, and being more susceptible to arthritis(?), tumor or abscess behind eye(?), or glaucoma(?). Of course, having vaccinations can also be responsible to all of this, too.

The homeopathic remedy Natrum muriaticum is a BIG remedy to help with grief. You can make it up from 6c or 12c pellets. Add one pellet to a 1 or 2 oz dropper bottle and fill with Spring water. Give Howie 1/2 dropperful by mouth two times daily. Succuss the bottle 20 times by hitting it against the palm of your other hand.
Give this for at least 3 weeks to see if he is improved.

OR if vaccinations are a factor, then he would need Thuya 6c or 12c (made up the same way as above). You DO NOT give BOTH remedies at the same time. Start with one, and if no response then stop and start the other.

In the meantime, I believe that Howie needs to be seen by a veterinarian, conventional or better yet, holistic, with diagnostic equipment, such as x-ray, or ultrasound, to find out what is going on.

Click here to find a holistic veterinarian in your area. Another resource for vets knowledgeable in homeopathy is

Take care,
Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

DISCLAIMER: This educational advice is based on the depth of your question and the picture you submitted. The above should never replace the advice of your local veterinarian, as they have the ability to evaluate your dog in person.

Jul 02, 2012
bone tumor, care plan and palliative?
by: Anonymous

I brought Howie back to the vet in early June and he said that he likely had bone cancer and was palliative, and that x-ray would have limited diagnostic value and that he had about 6 months.

I had to go away for 3 weeks and my brother took care of him. After chewing on a t-bone he developed a sore on his left side lip that turned into an abscess. It was treated homeopathically and drained and seemed to heal, but because of its location his canine lower tooth kept going through it and it turned into a quarter size doughnut wound with a hole in it that won't heal.

After I got home he declined, almost as if he was waiting for me. His eyes were worse, he was more lethargic, his wound on his mouth seemed more infected, his skin issue came back (scabs in areas and major hair loss and skin redness on his neck), and he was excessively drinking water. He also had one night of pawing at his eye/head a lot and deep sneezing.

I brought him back to the vet and he said that I should put him down. He gave him a shot and home dose of steroids and antibiotics (Novalexin and Prednisone) to decrease his discomfort with the infections while I made a plan and said our goodbyes.

After that he oddly seemed to improve. On top of above meds, we were also giving him 1/2 of Deramaxx tab in morning and evening (dosage said only 1/2 per day) from prev meds. Although he still sleeps a lot, he seems to have more energy, for the first time I could see his eyes almost fully, we saw him run, no further excessive drinking or pawing at his head (although he does occasionally rub it on things), or scratching at his neck. He seems to rest and sleep without discomfort, is moving around well, goes for short walks, has no problems with going to the bathroom, and is eating all his meals. So, the appointment I had made to put him down I cancelled.

I did some research online to learn more about what he might have and indicators of pain so that I would know when the right time was to put him down. I learned that his tumor is on the zygomatic arch although not certain if it's isolated there, and that there are many types of tumors, some benign that can be surgically removed.

I am needing some guidance on how to proceed. Howie is soon to be 11 and I want to do what is best for him. I would like to give him more time if he has quality of life and definitely don't want him to suffer.

-Is it worth investigating further?

-What signs can help make a decision about putting him down?

-Is there anything else I could do for his lip?

Thank you for your help,

Jul 02, 2012
My Online Vet Response for: Dog's Swollen Eye and Decreased Mobility
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Jane,
You certainly ARE in an isolated area! I just checked a map and Yellowknife is in the Northwest Territories of Canada, 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle!

Thank you for the update on Howie. That is great news that he has responded to the antibiotics and cortisone/steroids. And that he seems to be doing better at this time.

You wrote:

-Is it worth investigating further?

Yes, I believe so. If your veterinarian is able to take an x-ray of his skull, the zygomatic arch area, (he may need to do an 'oblique' angle instead of just a lateral view), it would possibly give more information on how severe the bone cancer has progressed.

ALSO, to take an x-ray of his back/hips and/or hind legs. If it is arthritis causing the decreased mobility, then that is NOT as bad as finding out that he has bone cancer that has spread from the head area to his spine.

You already mentioned earlier that his blood count was normal, which is great!

- What signs can help make a decision about putting him down?

When Howie is 'apathetic', and not interested in what is going on around him, would be one sign. Reluctant to get up and/or move around. Decreased appetite because of difficulty opening or closing his mouth to eat, going outside for urination/defecation. Crying in pain when he tries to get up or lay down.

-Is there anything else I could do for his lip?

Try using Calendula tincture, diluted in warm water (add 1 TBSP Calendula to 1 cup water) to to rinse out the wound on his lip twice a day, after meals. Calendula is an herb that works well to help gaping wounds to heal. It also comes in an ointment form but Howie will probably lick it off his mouth, so I think the tincture would be better.

Also, adding immune system supplements (mentioned above with links) to his diet, might help. Unfortunately, the supplements I am familiar with are in the USA. I hope they will ship to where you are in Canada. Or you may be able to find something similar in Canada.


Jul 02, 2012
My Online Vet Response for: Dog's Swollen Eye And Decreased Mobility PART TWO
by: Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

Hi Jane,

Please keep us posted by coming back to this page and clicking the 'click here to add your own comments' link below.

Take care,
Dr. Carol Jean Tillman

P.S. If you've found this service or our web site helpful, please "Like" us by clicking the like button at the top of the left margin. Thank you!

Related Pages:
- Dog Eye Problems,
- Ask a Vet Online Library - Dog Eye Problems Section
- Canine Tumors (Dog Cancer),
- Ask a Vet Online Library - Canine Tumors/Dog Cancer Section

DISCLAIMER: This educational advice is based on the depth of your question and the picture you submitted. The above should never replace the advice of your local veterinarian, as they have the ability to evaluate your dog in person.

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