The boney cavity that holds the eyeball and all of the surrounding and supporting muscles, nerves, and vessels is called the orbit. If the orbital area becomes inflamed it is a condition called orbital cellulitis. This condition is common in large breeds and hunting breeds of dogs. It is not common in other breeds. Foreign objects in the eye or general infections originating in other parts of the body that have spread to the eye are common causes of orbital celluitis. Many hunting dogs who get grass awn, porcupine quills, thorns, and other objects in the eye develop orbital cellulitis. The most obvious symptoms of the condition include the extension of the nictitating membrane, sometimes called the third eyelid, severe pain when opening the mouth, bulging of the eyeball, and swelling of the conjunctiva and eyelid. Corneal inflammation and swelling may also develop because dogs with this condition are unable to fully close their eyelids.
If orbital cellulitis is severe a veterinarian may administer antibiotics either through tablets taken by mouth or via injection. This is usually effective, but drainage may be required if there is swelling evident beyond the last molar. Topical lubricants, eye drops, and warm compresses may also be given to help protect the cornea and provide comfort to the affected dog. Ultrasounds and x-rays are often used to examine the sinuses, nasal cavity, and adjacent teeth to look for contributing factors to the condition. Once treated and resolved it is possible for relapses of orbital cellulitis to occur, so it’s important that caretakers schedule regular check-ups with their dog’s veterinarian to ensure that proper care is maintained.