First Aid: Eye Out of Socket

Just to get this out of the way… GROSS! A blow to the head can cause a dog or cat’s eye to pop out of the socket. An eye out of place is more common in flat faced dogs like Shih Tzus and Pekingese… but it can happen to anyone. (Cue scary eye popping out music!)

Displaced eyeballs usually LOOK worse than they actually are. Sometimes, the eye is just pushed a little forward; sometimes it actually rests on the cheek area. But if the muscles and nerves aren’t damaged badly, there’s a better than fifty percent chance your pet will keep his sight — as long as he gets quick treatment. An eye that is out of the socket must be replaced within one hour for the best chance of full recovery.

Eye in socket… everything is right with the world!

If your vet is less than an hour away, you’ve got to bring your injured pet in. You want to protect the injured eye, and keep things moist. You can cover the eye with a gauze pad that has been soaked in lukewarm contact lens solution (or tap water, if you have nothing else). Keep the pad moist, but don’t take it off the eye to do it. Use an eyedropper to keep the pad damp. If your pet struggles against the gauze pad, don’t force it. Use a spray bottle filled with the sterile saline contact lens solution and spritz the eye occasionally while you ride to the vet’s.

If your vet is more than an hour away, you’re going to have to replace the eye into the socket yourself. In case you ever have to do this, here are the basics: grip the skin of the upper and lower eyelids and pull forward. Lube the eyeball with petroleum jelly — be generous. As you pull the eyelids forward, the eye may just slide back into place. If it doesn’t snap right back into place, you’ll need an extra pair of CLEAN hands to gently push the eyeball in.

When an eyeball pops out of place, the muscles immediately start swelling. If you can’t get the eye back in, the swelling may be to blame. In any case, you should get your pet to the vet as soon as possible, whether or not you’re able to return the eyeball to the socket.

Keep in mind that grabbing your pet by the scruff of the neck will put pressure on the eye area. Pets who have popped an eye once will often do it again, so be careful how you handle them.