Dog’s Eye to Roll Back in Their Head – Top 3 Reasons Why

A dog’s eye rolling back into his head is a sign that there might be something wrong. This isn’t a condition that happens often, but it’s an indicator of a possible eye injury or other condition. Here are the top medical reasons why a dog’s eye rolls in the back of his head and what you should do about it.

1. Your Dog Has an Eye Injury

A dog’s eye might be rolling back in their head because of a possible eye injury. The eye injury could be to the third eyelid. A dog has a third eyelid that could cover part of his eye if it comes up. If the third eyelid covers part of the eye it could look like the eye is actually rolling to his head.

Usually the third eyelid is to blame as opposed to having one eye move differently than the other eye. If the third eyelid comes up it’s often due to pain somewhere around the eye. Any eye injury could cause this third eyelid to come up, such as conjunctivitis or a scratch. Drops are often times used to treat eye conditions and certain tests are performed to see exactly what the issue is.

2. Your Dog May Have Had a Seizure

When a dog has a seizure, it can be a very scary thing to witness, especially if you’ve never had this happen before. Seizures happen due to abnormal brain activity and the symptoms of a seizure depends upon how much of the brain is affected by the abnormality. A dog having seizures will exhibit various signs and symptoms, such as the eyes rolling in the back of the head. A dog might also seem confused and may not even recognize his owners.

Your dog may also begin salivating and bashing his teeth and he also might get anxious or behave in an abnormal manner. He may also begin to urinate or have a bowel movement during a seizure. When your dog is actually having the seizure, parts of his body will begin to convulse and it will be uncontrollable.

3. Your Dog May Have Nystagmus

Nystagmus is the medical term for unintentional eye movement and this is a fairly common occurrence in dogs. The eyes might be moving unintentionally and rapidly, and this can happen either in an up-and-down motion or a side-to-side motion. Medical conditions, old age, and birth defects can cause nystagmus. A dog with this condition might exhibit symptoms that could be falsely attributed to a stroke. This includes nausea, motion sickness, disorientation, falling, walking in circles, tilting his head, and rolling.

What Causes a Dog’s Third Eyelid to Show?

There are several different reasons why the dog’s third eyelid might be showing, but often times it has to do with an injury to the eye. Your dog might have trauma to his cornea so the third eyelid will show up as a way to help prevent further injury to the eye. Pain and inflammation could cause the eye to go deeper into the socket. The muscle that keeps the third eyelid in place might also have become damaged or weakened.

Cherry eye is when there is a prolapse of the gland around the third eye and there are certain breeds of dogs that are susceptible to cherry eye. Bulldogs, beagles, cocker spaniels, and other breeds are more likely to have cherry eye.

The gland will be exposed and this could lead to the gland to become weaker and become inflamed. Other reasons for the third eyelid to show include neurological issues such as nerve damage or even medication-related side effects. Malnourished and dehydrated dogs will also exhibit this issue with the third eyelid showing.

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a veterinarian when in doubt.


  • Tammy | 19/01/2020

    What should you do if the dogs eye does go deeper into the socket, will it just get better on its own or should it be treated with drops, or something else?

  • Tia | 19/02/2021

    my dogs eyes just fluttered and went to the back of his head. It lasted between 30s-1min. No sesure. What do i do?

  • Debbie C | 07/03/2021

    Just finished washing my female beagles using natural dog shampoo that I have always used.One dog is fine but the other one seemed to hurt her eye . She loves to run around and slide her face on the carpet afterwards . We looked at her about 1/2 hr later and she didn’t want to open her eye . Seemed like it’s irritated and really red ! Put saline solution in it and it looks like that third eye layer is in front of it . Did she scratch it? What should I do?

  • Julie | 11/04/2021

    My German shepherds right eye looks rolled back. She’s not moving and her eye is white. Also I can’t get her up. She has pain meds. Should I give her one? Or is there something else I need to do?

  • Jarod | 10/11/2021

    Did you find out what it was and was it resolved? My German Shepherd suffering from very similar thing right now, hasnt moved for a couple days as well, vet says could be tumour, stroke or vestibular infection. Very worried at the moment, thanks.

  • Brian Furniss | 24/05/2021

    I took my lab into the woods last night and today he has what is described in the first part of this article. If he did in fact scratch his eye how long does it typically take to return to normal and do I need medication for the eye?

  • Morgan Elizabeth Hicks | 27/06/2021

    what if he does it when i’m petting him?

  • Darla Skelton | 29/06/2021

    I just got a ten week old Labrador when I got her her left eye wouldn’t stay open and it rolls upwards now the other eye is doing it what could be wrong

  • Beverly Bates | 13/11/2021

    Has his eyes gotten scratched, or has he injured his eyes? There are several things it could be. I’d carry him to vet if it continues.

  • Robyn Wolf | 21/07/2022

    My dog is 14 yr old mixed beagle n dachshund. She woke w/her left eye going upward. It’s red n gook in it. I bought drops for conjunctivitis? She seems very lethargic. Still excited to go for walks. Can still jump up on bed. But, I feel she is pain. Eating normally. No unusual bowel movements or pee episodes. But, is standing n looking around n then just sleeps. She normally sleeps a lot – older doggie. Is this the 3rd eyelid? Just started drops last night as soon as we noticed her eye. Eating normally.

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