Orbital cellulitis

From Dog
Orbital cellulitis due to carnassial tooth-root abscess in a dog[1]

Orbital cellulitis is an ophthalmic disease of the canine eye characterized by inflammation of the eye socket and scleritis.

Inflammation may be a result of inflammatory processes associated with tissue damage or infections by bacteria, resulting in swelling of the orbit, exophthalmos and sometimes abscess formation and septicemia.

Causes include:

- bacterial - especially Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas spp and Prevotella bivia[3]
- fungal - usually have concomitant ulcerative keratitis and episcleritis[4]
- Tick attachment cellulitis[9]
- Pneumonyssus caninum[10]

Clinically affected dogs usually present with a swollen eye (usually just distended due to retropulsive pressure from socket swelling), fever, tenderness of the area and pain or reluctance when attempting to open the mouth. In dogs with chronic swelling over 4 - 5 days, abscessation may be evident, leading to discharge at the skin surface, usually just below the eye. The eye may be swollen, with blepharospasm and chemosis.

Diagnosis usually requires radiographic or ultrasonographic imaging studies to determine the presence of a foreign body, tumor or tooth-root abscess. Serology may be required to eliminate other parasitic causes. A fine-needle biopsy is usually required to ascertain the presence of fluid or pus, followed by cultured and sensitivity if required.

Treatment is usually aimed at palliative care initially prior to diagnosis, with anti-inflammatory drugs such as meloxicam and in cases of abscess formation, drainage under sedation or general anesthesia.Surgical exploration of the orbit was performed and no foreign body was found.

The pterygopalatine fossa is often incised for release of contents and therapeutic retrobulbar drainage should be attempted. A drain is placed to encourage ventral drainage of abscesses.


  1. Your Own Vet
  2. Rühli MB & Spiess BM (1995) Treatment of orbital abscesses and phlegmon in dogs and cats. Tierarztl Prax 23(4):398-401
  3. Homma K & Schoster JV (2000) Anaerobic orbital abscess/cellulitis in a Yorkshire Terrier dog. J Vet Med Sci 62(10):1105-1107
  4. Bernays ME & Peiffer RL (1998) Ocular infections with dematiaceous fungi in two cats and a dog. J Am Vet Med Assoc 213(4):507-509
  5. Hendrix DV & Gelatt KN (2000) Diagnosis, treatment and outcome of orbital neoplasia in dogs: a retrospective study of 44 cases. J Small Anim Pract 41(3):105-108
  6. Caruso K et al (2002) What is your diagnosis? Retrobulbar mass indenting the inferior aspect of the right globe. J Am Vet Med Assoc 221(11):1553-1554
  7. Rühli MB & Spiess BM (1995) Retrobulbar space-occupying lesions in dogs and cats: symptoms and diagnosis. Tierarztl Prax 23(3):306-312
  8. Laus JL et al (2003) Orbital cellulitis associated with Toxocara canis in a dog. Vet Ophthalmol 6(4):333-336
  9. Feinmesser R et al (1986) Brown dog tick and periorbital cellulitis. Pediatr Infect Dis 5(5):608
  10. Roberts SR & Thompson TJ (1969) Pneumonyssus caninum and orbital cellulitis in the dog. J Am Vet Med Assoc 155(5):731-734