Those cute canine eyes gaze up at you each day with affection, but…are they changing? Do they seem bluish-gray or hazy in a way they didn’t before? Should you be concerned? If you’re wondering why your dog has cloudy eyes, two answers are most common: nuclear sclerosis, which is normal and no cause for concern, and cataracts, which aren’t always urgent, but should be monitored and treated when necessary.
Other culprits that are less common, but greater cause for concern:
- corneal dystrophy
- anterior uveitus
Knowing the difference between these will alleviate your concerns, and help you decided whether to get your four-legged friend additional medical attention. When in doubt, never hesitate to ask your veterinarian.
Don’t Go Nuclear (if it’s) Sclerosis
Sometimes medical terms make a condition sound more frightening than it needs to be: use the word nuclear and it sounds like an end-of-the-world issue! Fortunately this condition of the eye is natural and simply a product of aging. It’s also known as lenticular sclerosis, and it’s not exclusive to dogs. Horses, and even humans, experience this condition. Usual signs of the condition manifest this way:
- Both eyes changing at the same time.
- Begins in dogs typically over age six.
- Cloudiness would come on very gradually over time.
- Condition is not painful to your pet.
- Dogs are able to adapt to the shifting vision difference.
According to Healthy Pets, this normative hardening of the lens may impair some visual judgement of distance and range, but is not a cause for concern.
Cataracts and Dogs
Unlike normal aging of the lens, cataracts can:
- Impair vision
- Cause pressure and pain
- Lead to blindness if not treated
While cataract cloudiness might come on suddenly, it can be an inherited trait and develop gradually as well, so don’t assume slow change equals sclerosis. Always err on the side of caution and get it checked out. A veterinarian can use eye drops, light, and an ophthalmoscope to see if eyesight is obstructed and how severe the cataract is.
The good news? In many cases they can be monitored and don’t need treatment right away. However, in some cases cataracts can permanently damage vision or blindness in mere weeks, or even days. According to Animal Eye Care, common causes for cataracts include:
- Inherited condition (genes and breed)
- Ocular disease
- Physical trauma
- Nutritional deficiency
- Aging (usually over eight years)
The good news is, TheBark.com reports that cataract surgeries for dogs have an 80 to 90 percent success rate, alleviating the problem, and restoring vision.
Other Signs of a Cloudy Forecast
Glaucoma is a fluid build-up in the eye that creates pressure which, if not alleviated, can deform the eye and cause irreversible blindness. Anterior uveitus, which can lead to blindness, is an iris inflammation and causes pain, so it may also be accompanied by pawing at the eye, redness, tearing, etc. Corneal dystrophy is inherited, fortunately isn’t painful, and has several variants that doctors note may or may not be serious:
- Stromal often needs no treatment.
- Endothelial may require contact lenses for the eyes.
- Epithelial “tags” may be removed surgically.
What You Can Do
Even the most level-headed dog lovers worry about their pet. If those beguiling eyes are causing you concern, there are smart steps to take (and others to avoid).
- Don’t worry. To put it in the positive, keep calm! With several normal, painless reasons for those cloudy peepers, there’s no reason to assume the worst. Your four-legged friend will pick up on your anxiety, too.
- Don’t D-I-Y. It’s true that eye issues are shared amongst animals, but don’t assume your eyedrops are! Never use any methods or medications you might use for your own optical issues without consulting your veterinarian.
- Don’t wait. Make a calm, cool, and collected call to your veterinarian. Some issues can have serious repercussions within days, so communicate clearly so the vet can assess the urgency.
- Check twice daily. Some cataracts and issues can result from trauma to the eye, so give those pupils a check morning and night.
- Diet review. Since some of the above issues can be linked back to proper food and nutrition, research your dog’s size, breed, age, and other factors to ensure they’re getting a well-rounded diet.
Getting older happens to all of us, whether we’re a human reaching for reading glasses or a dog needing a little extra help navigating the stairs. Know the signs, follow up on your concerns, and keep enjoying those looks of love (cloudy or not.)