Like other small breeds, Shih Tzus are known to suffer from eye complications like crossed eyes or strabismus.
Sometimes this is referred to as “wall eyes” or “walled eyes” but both terms describe the same condition.
Are Shih Tzu Cross Eyed?
Some Shih Tzu are born cross eyed, but it can also be caused by an injury like a fall, drop, or an illness. While not interchangeable, crossed eyes are similar to lazy eyes and occur in a variety of small dogs. Can be treated by a veterinarian using therapy, medicine or surgery so your Shih Tzu can have normal vision and live a happy, normal life.
Strabismus or Cross Eyes in Shih Tzus
Shih Tzus are one of the small dog breeds most associated with having eye complications like strabismus or cross eyes.
Strabismus causes the Shih Tzu’s signature eyes to point in different directions, revealing large slivers of white on either side.
This gives their eyes the appearance of being “crossed” or “wall eyed.”
Strabismus is an ocular condition of the eye that causes both of a Shih Tzu’s eyes to point in different directions, like towards its nose or away from it.
Both eyes usually go in the same direction.
It is a noticeable change from their standard dark, expressive eyes that they are typically known for.
There are several reasons your Shih Tzu’s eyes might be crossed, including inherited or caused by injury or illness.
If you think your dog might have crossed eyes, it’s a good idea to have them examined by a trusted veterinarian.
Are All Shih Tzus Cross Eyed?
Shih Tzus are more prone to eye issues like being cross eyed. But not all Shih Tzus are cross-eyed.
According to The American Shih Tzu Club, the breed standard, or the ideal model of Shih Tzus, would have large and very dark eyes with very little white showing.
Even though it’s common, the excessive white seen with crossed eyes is considered an abnormality.
While crossed eyes themselves may not cause issues or complications, they may be a sign of an underlying issue like an internal injury.
Strabismus in Shih Tzus can be caused by:
- Inherited from its parents
- The shape or size of their head
- The flatness of their face
- Injury caused by fall or drops
- Muscle weakness around the eyes
- Vestibular or ear-related issues
As you can see, unless you know your dog’s condition was caused by an accident or injury, it’s difficult to determine one single cause for your Shih Tzu’s crossed eyes.
However, rest assured that a veterinarian can help you find the root cause and develop a treatment plan to care for your pup.
Is This The Same As “Lazy Eye”?
While they’re definitely similar, lazy and crossed eyes are not the exact same thing. But crossed eyes and lazy eyes are issues a lot of Shih Tzus and their owners, unfortunately, have to deal with.
When determining whether your Shih Tzu is cross eyed or has a lazy eye, look to see if both eyes are involved or if it’s just one.
When Shih Tzu’s eyes are cross eyed, both eyes are involved and typically are pointed in the same direction.
If you can, try to imagine the eyes as if there’s a string together. Where one eye goes, the other one is supposed to follow.
In Amblyopia, the condition that causes lazy eye, one eye is anchored to its string while the other is able to move independently.
Lazy eye usually only causes one eye to move in a different direction, leaving the other stabilized.
However, both lazy eyes and crossed eyes are conditions that need to be examined by a veterinarian.
My Shih Tzu Puppy Cross Eyed, Will They Outgrow It?
Eye exams are recommended as a part of routine care for Shih Tzu puppies. It’s likely your vet will bring it to your attention first.
But if not, make sure to take note of when you first noticed the cross eyes and whether the puppy could’ve been injured without your knowledge.
Your veterinarian will examine your puppy to determine if their crossed eyes are inherited or due to injury or illnesses.
The underlying cause will determine the course of treatment.
Some are minor issues and can be taken off rather quickly. Other issues, like internal injury, may require a little more care to heal completely.
It’s important to know which it is.
Typical treatment for crossed eyes is repairing damaged nerves, therapy to strengthen muscles, or in more severe cases, surgery.
In most cases, your Shih Tzu can live a perfectly normal life without being in pain or uncomfortable!
Are Other Breeds Cross Eyed?
Crossed eyes and other eye issues are commonly faced by dog breeds with small heads and flat faces. The medical term for this family of dogs is known as brachycephalic.
Cross eyes can often be seen in these brachycephalic dogs:
- French Bulldogs
- Boston Terriers
- Pugs and more
Like Shih Tzus, small dogs must receive routine eye care but they can and do live their lives to the fullest!
Is This A Serious Medical Condition? Is It Normal For Shih Tzu To Be Cross Eyed?
Many Shih Tzus have crossed eyes but it is a medical condition that needs to be treated by a veterinarian.
While some dogs are born with crossed eyes, it’s sometimes a sign of an underlying injury or illness.
Crossed eyes can be a sign of muscle weakness, nerve damage, or trauma.
Shih Tzus can be easily injured by small falls or being dropped! You may not think much of a fall but because Shih Tzus are more fragile than larger dog breeds, a small drop can cause a lot of damage.
Even if you can’t think of a specific incident, it’s important for Shih Tzus to be examined and receive routine eye care to ensure overall health and vision.
How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Cross Eyed?
Shih Tzus normally have large, expressive, dark eyes with very little white showing. Besides their coat, it’s one of their most recognized traits!
Because of their signature eyes, it is easy for owners to tell when something is off with your usually adorable dog.
Strabismus causes their eyes to be pulled in a direction they shouldn’t.
When this happens, you can see excessive white on either side. You might sometimes see this referred to as “wall eyes” or “walled eyes” but it’s the same phenomenon.
If the eyes point towards the nose, it’s called divergent strabismus. When the eyes point away from the nose, it’s called convergent strabismus.
If caused by injury or illness, your dog may show other symptoms that need to be evaluated.
Is There A Surgery To Fix Crossed Eyes?
If your dog was born with cross eyes, they may not need treatment at all. Their muscles may strengthen and resolve.
Even if their crossed eyes are a new problem, veterinarians can sometimes treat their eyes using therapy to strengthen the muscles surrounding the eyes.
If their eyes were damaged by injury or illness, treating the root of the problem can also help their eyes eventually point in the right direction.
But sometimes, when other solutions have failed, surgery may be needed to repair your Shih Tzu’s crossed eyes to prevent problems later on.
How Much Does Surgery Cost?
Caring for our dear pets is so challenging. We want them to be happy, healthy, and never uncomfortable! But the cost of treatment can stop us from taking care of them the way we want.
Unsurprisingly, the cost of surgery to repair crossed eyes in Shih Tzus depends entirely on the underlying cause.
For example, was another internal damage caused during a fall? Does that need to be fixed too?
The cost of repairing damage caused by injury may be different than repairing the muscles surrounding the eyes.
Consult with a veterinarian, or several, to determine the cause of your dog’s crossed eyes and to determine a treatment plan. Your dog may have crossed eyes but it doesn’t always mean they will need surgery!
Crossed eyes are a condition that affects many Shih Tzus and treatment can allow them to live happy lives with their owners.
- “Diseases of the Orbit of the Eye in Dogs,” (23 Sept. 2008), PetMD Editorial Board. https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/eyes/c_multi_orbital_diseases
- “Strabismus in Dogs,” (2018) Hollingler, Holly. Wag! https://wagwalking.com/condition/strabismus
- “Ocular Disorders Proven Or Suspected To Be Hereditary In Dogs,” (2018) The Blue Book. American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, 11th Ed. https://www.ofa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Bluebook-V11.pdf