Vet Explains 8 Common Boston Terrier Eye Problems [Causes, Treatment, Prevention] is reader-supported. If you buy a product through a link on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

The Boston Terrier, a beloved breed distinguished by its warm yet self-reliant temperament and ‘Tuxedo’ coat, is an absolute joy to bring into the family fold.

But with the excitement of owning this adorable breed comes the responsibility of being informed about the specific health conditions they’re predisposed to. One such area that demands our attention is their eye health.

Boston Terriers, owing to their unique genetic blueprint and distinct brachycephalic skull structure, are susceptible to certain eye conditions. This is exacerbated by breed traits such as their protruding, expressive eyes, which can easily attract irritants and are more vulnerable to injury.

Conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, dry eye, and corneal ulcers are unfortunately common among this breed. Without timely treatment, these issues can lead to severe discomfort, or even worse, irreparable vision loss, ranging from partial to complete blindness.

In this article, we’re diving into eight prevalent eye problems Boston Terrier owners should watch out for.

With a foundational understanding of these potential issues, you can be equipped to make educated decisions concerning your Boston’s ocular health and overall quality of life.

  1. Why Boston Terriers are Susceptible to Eye Issues
  2. 8 Common Boston Terrier Eye Problems

Why Boston Terriers are Susceptible to Eye Issues

To truly grasp the eye problems often faced by Boston Terriers, it’s important to take a step back and consider their unique eye anatomy and physiology.

Boston Terriers, like Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus, are classified as brachycephalic breeds. This term denotes a specific anatomical structure characterized by a flat skull, short, ‘pushed-in’ muzzles, shallow eye sockets, and distinctive bulging eyes.

This particular structure unfortunately exposes Boston Terriers’ eyes to a higher risk of injuries, irritants, and infections. Their protruding eyes don’t just give them that distinctive, endearing expression, but also leave them vulnerable to the elements and physical harm.

Further complicating the situation, the breed’s shallow eye sockets and ‘pushed-in’ muzzles reduce the protection and moisture that a deeper-set eye would normally benefit from. The result is a tendency towards dryness, which can subsequently lead to inflammation and discomfort for these lovable pups.

Understanding this inherent susceptibility in the breed’s physiology allows us to be proactive, ensuring we’re always on the lookout for signs of these common issues. This enables us to intervene early when necessary, safeguarding our Boston Terriers’ eye health and overall well-being.

8 Common Boston Terrier Eye Problems

The 8 Boston Terrier eye issues that we will cover to day are:

  • Glaucoma: This condition is characterized by an increase in intraocular pressure, which can lead to severe damage if left untreated.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (Dry Eye): A deficiency in tear production leads to this condition, causing discomfort and potential harm to the eye.
  • Strabismus: This is a hereditary condition that affects the alignment of the eyes.
  • Cataracts: Resulting in the clouding of the lens, cataracts can cause impaired vision and potentially lead to blindness.
  • Corneal Ulcers: These are caused by damage or erosion to the cornea, leading to painful sores on the eye’s surface.
  • Corneal Dystrophy: This condition refers to structural abnormalities in the cornea, which can cause opacity and visual issues.
  • Cherry Eye: This refers to the prolapse or protrusion of the tear gland, often visibly noticeable in the corner of the eye.
  • Distichiasis: This condition involves the abnormal growth of eyelashes, which can cause discomfort and potential injury to the eye.

Let’s take a closer look at each one.


Topping our list of eight common eye problems found in Boston Terriers is glaucoma. This condition, which can develop in both humans and dogs alike, is marked by an increase in intraocular pressure within the eye.

Under normal circumstances, eye pressure ranges from 12 to 25 mmHg. Any reading that exceeds this range is an indication that glaucoma could be developing.

Regular health check-ups using a Tonometer to measure eye pressure are essential for Boston Terriers due to their predisposition to this condition. Left unchecked, increased pressure can cause severe damage to the retina and optic disk.

There are two types of glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is characterized by the gradual development of blind spots and is often painless, resulting in partial blindness.

The second type, closed-angle glaucoma, is marked by a sudden increase in eye pressure, severe pain, redness, and vision loss.

Causes and Signs of Glaucoma

Glaucoma occurs when there’s an imbalance in the production and drainage of fluid secretions within the eye. Tear ducts produce tears that form the aqueous humor, or the fluid portion of the eye, providing lubrication, nutrition, and pressure support for the eye.

For Boston Terriers suffering from glaucoma, an excessive buildup of fluid inside the eye occurs. This leads to increased intraocular pressure and subsequent damage to internal eye structures.

Signs to look out for include redness, pain, venous congestion in the sclera (the white part of the eye), a bulging or firm eyeball, swelling and discoloration of the cornea, displacement of the lens, a slow-moving pupil, dilated pupils, and partial to complete blindness.

Treatment and Prevention

Glaucoma is managed with medications that work by reducing the excess fluid in the eye, thereby lowering the intraocular pressure. Timolol and dorzolamide are examples of such medicines used to manage eye hypertension in glaucoma.

Unfortunately, due to the genetic factors at play, glaucoma cannot be completely prevented in Boston Terriers. However, the early detection of this condition through regular veterinary check-ups can significantly slow its progression, helping to prevent it from worsening and leading to blindness.

As Boston Terrier owners, our role in the early detection and management of this condition cannot be overstated.

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (Dry Eye)

Second on our list is Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, more commonly known as dry eye. This disease arises due to diminished tear production, causing dryness and inflammation in the cornea, lacrimal gland, and conjunctiva.

This condition can result in thick mucus discharge from the eyes, along with redness, inflammation, and irritation. If untreated, dry eye can worsen, leading to ulcers and even partial blindness.

Boston Terriers are among the high-risk breeds that can develop recurrent conjunctivitis, another consequence of this condition.

The exact cause isn’t completely understood, but it’s believed that several factors, including genetics, immune-mediated diseases, certain infections like Canine Distemper virus, drug side effects (from substances like Sulfonamide and atropine), and facial nerve injury, can disrupt the pre-corneal tear film.

Causes and Signs of Dry Eye

As mentioned, dry eye typically presents with redness, pain, and irritation. Your Boston Terrier may paw at their eyes, a clear sign of discomfort.

Eyes may also display a thick, slimy discharge. The combination of recurrent conjunctivitis, dry eyes, and ocular discharge often leads to the diagnosis of this condition.

A Schirmer Tear Test (STT) is used to confirm dry eye. In this test, a strip is placed in the eye to measure the amount of tear production in mm/minute. Normal values range from 15 to 20 mm/min.

Any reading lower than 15 mm/min, combined with a history of recurrent conjunctivitis, ocular discharge, and redness, confirms a diagnosis of Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca.

It’s important to note that older dogs can have values lower than 15 mm/min, so a thorough history and sign recognition are crucial for accurate diagnosis.

Treatment and Prevention

The management of dry eye involves using eye drops that reduce inflammation and stimulate tear production.

Drops containing polyvinyl pyrrolidone or polyvinyl alcohol can be employed for this purpose. A combination of steroidal and anti-inflammatory drops can also help alleviate symptoms.

Preventive measures include keeping your Boston Terrier’s eyes clean, ensuring they have regular health check-ups, and staying up-to-date with vaccinations. Cyclosporine and tacrolimus are other effective treatments for dry eye in dogs.

By staying informed and proactive, we can manage this condition and maintain the comfort and happiness of our Boston Terriers.


Another inherited condition prevalent in Boston Terriers is a defect in eye positioning known as Strabismus.

Owners might observe that their dogs’ eyes do not move in sync when tracking objects; one eye may deviate to one side, creating a misalignment. This gives the appearance of crossed eyes or eyes pointing outward.

Dogs with Strabismus are sometimes called wall eyed dogs because of the way they look.

While Strabismus isn’t painful for your Boston Terrier, it’s often a symptom of other serious conditions like inner ear disease or tumors in the eye or brain.

It’s usually related to the nervous system, most commonly affecting the vestibular system, which could result in body equilibrium issues like discoordination, ataxia, and abnormal gait.

Diagnosis of Strabismus is based on history, clinical signs, and ophthalmic and neurological examination.

Causes and Signs of Strabismus

Genetics is one of the causative factors for Strabismus in breeds like Boston Terriers and Pugs.

Additionally, factors such as injury, inflammation, or infections can cause the eye’s position to deviate, leading to acquired Strabismus.

This condition may also be caused by vestibular disease, affecting the muscles and nerves controlling eye movement, which is characterized by loss of balance, rolling, and abnormal flickering of the eyes.

Symptoms to watch out for include bumping into objects, difficulty in perceiving depth, lack of eye alignment, and eyes deflected towards the nose (crossed eyes) or away from the nose (divergent eyes).

Treatment and Prevention

The mild form of Strabismus, typically inherited in Boston Terriers and Pugs, is painless and can resolve over time as the dog learns to adapt using other senses.

However, acquired Strabismus, potentially indicating infection, toxin exposure, injury, or neurological disease, should be specifically diagnosed and treated.

Prevention of further injuries can be achieved by removing obstacles and hard objects from your dog’s surroundings. Treatments may include nerve tonics, anti-inflammatory drugs, and antibiotics to treat any underlying ear infections causing Strabismus.

It’s important to remember that while Strabismus may appear concerning, it is often a manageable condition when detected and treated early. As always, regular check-ups with your veterinarian are key to maintaining your Boston Terrier’s health.


Boston Terriers are notably at a higher risk for developing cataracts compared to other dog breeds. Cataracts are characterized by cloudiness that forms on the lens of the eye.

This cloudiness interferes with light entering the lens, disrupting image formation and leading to vision loss. The lens is crucial for image formation as it focuses the light onto the retina. It contains proteins and fluid components.

When these proteins begin to clump together, it creates a cloudiness that obstructs light entering the pupil.

Causes and Signs

The causes of cataracts are varied and include a hereditary predisposition in breeds like Boston Terriers.

Other causes include old age, trauma, exposure to radiation, malnutrition, diabetes, and oxidative stress. Mature stages of cataracts are often accompanied by pain and irritation, and may involve secondary eye diseases.

Signs of cataracts include cloudiness, loss of lens transparency, vision problems, lens-associated uveitis (inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye), and glaucoma secondary to uveitis.

Treatment and Prevention

The treatment for cataracts typically involves surgical removal of the affected lens, which is then replaced with an artificial one. This is often accomplished through a technique called phacoemulsification, where ultrasonic waves are used to break up and remove the cloudy portion of the lens.

Preventative measures for cataracts include maintaining a balanced diet to ensure proper nutrition, preventing diabetes as high blood sugar can induce structural changes within the lens that predispose it to cataracts, and guarding against trauma.

Regular ophthalmic examinations are also crucial to diagnose any subclinical eye conditions early and stop them from developing into more serious problems.

As always, your veterinarian is your best resource for advice and treatment if you suspect your Boston Terrier may be developing cataracts. Regular check-ups can help to catch any potential issues early, giving your dog the best chance for a positive outcome.

Corneal Ulcers

Corneal ulcers occur in Boston Terriers when the cornea, the clear outer layer of the eye, becomes damaged or eroded. The cornea plays a crucial role in maintaining the eye’s integrity and function.

These ulcers can be slow-growing superficial ulcers or deeper sores, and sometimes the inner layer of the cornea protrudes from the ulcer site.

Causes and Signs

A number of factors can lead to the development of corneal ulcers. Trauma to the eye, such as from pawing in response to irritation, a foreign object in the eye, or exposure to chemicals and dyes can cause these ulcers.

Eye inflammatory conditions like Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) may also progress to ulcers. Infectious agents like Canine Adenovirus and Canine Herpesvirus can likewise cause corneal ulcers.

Issues with the eyelids, such as the inward growth of eyelashes that irritates and traumatizes the sensitive eye linings, can lead to the development of ulcers.

Conditions like Entropion (inward rolling of the eyelid) and Ectropian (outward rolling of the eyelid) predispose the eye to infections and inflammation, resulting in ulcers.

Lastly, genetic predisposition in breeds like Boston Terriers can lead to Ulcerative Keratitis.

Signs and symptoms of corneal ulcers include:

  • Inflammation of the conjunctiva and cornea
  • Pain and redness of the eyes
  • Squinting and blinking
  • Restlessness and lethargy due to pain
  • Mucoid to purulent discharge from the eyes
  • Visible sores on the cornea
  • Corneal opacity (a cloudiness covering the cornea)
  • Visible blood vessels around the cornea, suggestive of developing ulcers

Treatment and Prevention

The treatment approach for corneal ulcers depends on the diagnosed cause. Generally, a combination of anti-inflammatory and antibiotic eye drops are used.

Pain relief medication can also be administered under the guidance of a veterinarian. Some deep-seated ulcers may warrant a surgical approach.

Medications that prevent dryness by promoting tear production can be used as a supportive measure.

Atropine can be used to dilate the pupil to help relieve pain, although it can cause drying of the eye.

Preventive measures include regular health checkups with ophthalmic exams. Keeping the eye clean, preventing exposure to chemicals or dyes, and promptly treating mild inflammatory conditions like KCS and Conjunctivitis can help prevent complications like corneal ulcers.

Corneal Dystrophy

Corneal dystrophy is a structural abnormality in the cornea that is likely inherited and unrelated to any other eye condition or pathology.

This condition is characterized by the presence of abnormal tissue in the cornea and opacity.

There are three subtypes of corneal dystrophy, based on the anatomical location of the defect.

Causes and Signs

  • Epithelial Corneal Dystrophy: This subtype of corneal dystrophy affects the superficial layer of the cornea. It is primarily characterized by opacity or cloudiness. However, in some cases, Boston Terriers may show signs of mild pain, such as squinting. The eye surface may also develop white to gray patches that restrict light.
  • Stromal Corneal Dystrophy: This subtype affects the stroma of the cornea, the middle layer. It is characterized by fat deposition within the stroma. This can occur in dogs that consume a diet high in cholesterol and fat, which increases the triglyceride content in their body. These triglycerides then start to deposit in the stroma. The opacity in this subtype develops gradually and vision problems occur when the opacity is widespread.
  • Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy: The third form of corneal dystrophy affects the endothelium, the deepest layer of the cornea. This form is most common in middle-aged to older Boston Terriers. Early stages may have no visible sign to mild pain. However, as the condition advances, edema or fluid accumulation within the layer can lead to the development of corneal ulcers and vision loss.

General signs of corneal dystrophy can include mild to moderate pain, squinting, opacity, corneal ulcers, and partial to complete loss of vision. The specific signs depend on the layer of the cornea involved as well as the stage of the disease.

Treatment and Prevention

Treatment for corneal dystrophy depends on the severity of the condition. Mild cases may not require much treatment and can resolve on their own, while complicated cases involving deeper layers of the cornea that have developed into ulcers need prompt veterinary care.

Treatment options can include anti-inflammatory medications, pain management, and surgery.

Preventive measures can involve shifting to a low-fat diet, ensuring balanced nutrition with vitamins like Vitamin A to support eye health, and regular health checkups.

Consultation with a veterinarian regarding any complication involving corneal dystrophies is also important for prevention and early detection.

Cherry Eye

Cherry eye is a common eye problem among Boston Terriers and other brachycephalic breeds. This condition refers to the protrusion of the tear glands from the third eyelid, or nictitating membrane.

This gland prolapses from its original position due to a weakening of the muscle strands that hold it in place.

Causes and Signs

The third eyelid serves to protect the eye and contains a tear gland and duct that produces tears. These tears maintain the tear film of the eye, providing nutrition, maintaining aqueous balance, supporting eye pressure, and containing proteins that heal the eye and fight infections.

Therefore, cherry eye can lead to keratoconjunctivitis, also known as dry eye, and other eye infections.

The cause of cherry eye largely lies in genetics, as seen in the Boston Terrier breed. The tear gland pops out of place due to the weakening of a fibrous attachment that anchors the gland within the third eyelid.

This attachment is thought to be genetically weak in certain dogs, like Boston Terriers, Pugs, Shih Tzus, French Bulldogs, and Beagles.

Signs and symptoms of cherry eye include a cherry-like growth at the corner of the eye, mild pain, discomfort, and dryness of the eyes.

Treatment and Prevention

The treatment for cherry eye involves the surgical repositioning of the prolapsed gland back into the pocket from which it prolapsed, within the third eyelid.

However, postoperative complications may arise, such as conjunctivitis and watery eyes, that need to be managed with corticosteroids and tear-enhancing medications.

Removal of the gland is not advocated, as it will lead to dry eyes due to a lack of tear production.

Unfortunately, there are no preventive measures that can completely avoid the incidence of cherry eye in high-risk breeds.

However, one can reduce the severity and avoid complications by ensuring early detection and seeking veterinary care as soon as possible.


Distichiasis is a condition that refers to the abnormal growth of eyelashes through the duct of the meibomian gland, which are oily glands located at the edge of the eyelids where eyelashes grow.

These abnormal eyelashes grow along the eyelid margin and pass through the gland duct, reaching the conjunctiva and potentially even the cornea. This abnormality causes irritation and trauma to the conjunctiva and cornea, inciting an inflammatory response.

Causes and Signs

The primary known cause of distichiasis is hereditary predisposition. This abnormal eyelash growth can vary in its impact on a Boston Terrier, depending on factors such as the hardness and length of the abnormally grown hairs, which determine the extent of trauma to the eye.

Signs of distichiasis can include redness, pain, inflammation, excess tear production, and in severe cases, corneal ulcers.

Treatment and Prevention

The treatment approach to distichiasis is contingent on the severity of the condition. Mild forms of distichiasis, characterized by soft, small eyelash outgrowths that do not produce any noticeable clinical signs, may not require treatment.

In moderate cases, the use of a lubricating gel can protect the tear film of the eye from irritation by the abnormal eyelashes.

Severe cases of distichiasis, particularly when the abnormally grown hairs are hard and long, causing corneal ulcers, require surgical intervention. This surgery involves removal of the abnormal hairs and destruction of the hair follicles to prevent recurrence.

Prevention of distichiasis is challenging as the condition is hereditary.

However, potential harm to future generations of puppies can be mitigated by avoiding breeding a Boston Terrier suffering from distichiasis with another dog. This can help reduce the likelihood of passing the condition to offspring.


In summary, like many other brachycephalic breeds, Boston Terriers are predisposed to certain eye conditions due to their genetic makeup.

The eight common eye problems they can face include conditions that affect the eye pressure, such as glaucoma; issues related to dryness of the eyes, like keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye); genetic predispositions like strabismus; clouding of the lens known as cataracts; corneal ulcers; structural abnormalities within the corneal layers called corneal dystrophy; tear gland prolapse known as cherry eye; and the outgrowth of eyelashes termed distichiasis.

While some of these conditions can be acquired, a common genetic predisposition plays a significant role in all these diseases. Therefore, responsible and caring Boston Terrier owners should have a basic understanding of these potential issues to ensure they can provide prompt and appropriate care when necessary.

Although it may be impossible to entirely eliminate the possibility of eye issues in Boston Terriers, basic care measures can certainly help mitigate risks. These include providing a healthy, balanced diet, ensuring they get an appropriate amount of exercise, and scheduling regular veterinary check-ups.

Such proactive measures can reduce the chances of your Boston Terrier developing these eye problems, leading to a healthier, happier life for your beloved pet.

Dr. Shahzaib Wahid DVM

Dr. Shahzaib Wahid, DVM, currently works an Associate Veterinarian at an animal clinic in Islamabad, Pakistan. As an experienced veterinarian, Dr. Wahid has a passion for providing advice and helping pet owners.

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