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Why Do Old Dogs Get Cloudy Eyes?

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Queen Sophie Dorothea of Prussia with a Papillon 1737

Old dogs get cloudy eyes because, just as in people, they undergo several changes as they start aging. One of the first signs dog owners may notice are the dog's eyes getting cloudy. Along with cloudy eyes may come some changes in vision and behavior that may be noticed by attentive dog owners. As always, it's best to consult with the vet when any vision changes are noticed so to ensure a correct diagnosis. There are certain eye conditions in dogs that can lead to blindness if veterinary attention is not sought within 24 hours, so best to play it safe when you notice any changes in vision or the appearance of the dog's eyes.

dog-nuclear-sclerosis-picture

Picture of dog eye with nuclear sclerosis

A Matter of Nuclear Sclerosis

Also known as lenticular sclerosis, nuclear sclerosis in dogs causes the pupils (the black circle) of the dog's eyes to assume a cloudy, bluish appearance. Not always this is fully visible at the early stages. A veterinarian may be better able to notice the early signs when flashing a light into the dog's eyes.

Nuclear sclerosis is a natural part of aging, therefore old dogs get cloudy eyes causing a cloudy appearance in both eyes generally starting in senior dogs from over the age of six.

The opacity of the pupil is caused by the lens hardening. Along with the cloudy appearance, there may be slight vision changes to which the dog though gradually adapts to. Affected dogs may no longer see too well when there is a treat on the floor.

Did you know? The light veterinarians use to examine a dog's eyes is known as an "ophthalmoscope."

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A Case of Cataracts

dog-cataract picture

Picture of dog eye with cataract

Many dog owners assume a senior dog has cataracts when they notice that their old dogs get cloudy eyes, but more often than not, it is nuclear sclerosis since it's a more prevalent condition.

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Dogs who have cataracts tend to present with a bluish, gray or whitish color change in the eye. Some people describe it as appearing like "crushed glass in the dog's eye."

Age-related cataract are usually very small and may progress very slowly, explains veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Welser. Because cataracts interfere with vision, affected dogs may bump into objects and may be hesitant in moving around. The eye may be painful and the dog may squint.

In senior dogs, metabolic disorders such as diabetes may be a contributing factor. Cataract surgery may need to be performed.

dog-glaucoma-picture

Picture of dog eye with glaucoma

An Issue of Glaucoma

If a senior dog's eyes become suddenly cloudy, this can be a medical emergency. Glaucoma is an eye problem that strikes very quickly. Affected dogs develop rapid onset of cloudy eyes, the pupils may appear dilated and the eyes may have a bloodshot, bulging appearance.

In addition, affected dogs may become lethargic. Glaucoma is a medical emergency because without treatment, it can lead to permanent vision loss in less than 24 hours, explains veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Mark Bobofchak.

Glaucoma is confirmed with an intraocular reading that is greater than 3ommHG. Treatment must be immediate and often consists of topical medications such as Xalatan or giving IV Mannitol.

Other Reasons Old Dogs Get Cloudy Eyes

There are several other disorders that may take place when old dogs get cloudy eyes and these may range from hereditary disorders to corneal scratches caused by injury or eyelashes scratching the eye, or inflammation inside the eye (uveitis). Because some ocular problems can lead to complications and even vision loss, it's best to play it safe and have the dog see the vet when the eyes change appearance of when there are any vision changes.

Photo Credits:

  • Wikipedia, Nuclear sclerosis, Nuclear sclerosis in a nine year old Collie mixed breed. This condition is often confused with a cataract.by Joel Mills - Own work CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Flickr Creative Commons, Puppy Cataract, Chester has a cataract in his left eye, by nathanmac87, CCBY2.0
  • Flickr Creative Comons, Dog with bulging and clouded right eye, by Pete - Flickr: Crazy Eye, Dog, CC BY-SA 2.0

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