Cloudy eyes often have a hazy, bluish appearance, and the dog's vision may or may not be affected. Naturally, dog owners worry when they see cloudiness in their dog's eyes. Your veterinarian is the best place to begin if you notice that your dog has cloudy eyes.
Causes of Cloudy Eyes in Dogs
There are a number of ophthalmic conditions that can make a dog's eyes appear cloudy; some of these conditions are more serious than others. Many people first assume the cloudiness is caused by cataracts. Although this is sometimes the case, cloudy eyes may occur due to other eye problems.
Also known as nuclear sclerosis, lenticular sclerosis is an eye condition that affects aging dogs and causes the lens of the eye to become hazy in appearance. The condition develops due to a buildup of old fibrous tissue in the lens of the eye located behind the iris. Lenticular sclerosis is common in middle-aged and senior dogs. Fortunately, the condition does not cause pain or blindness.
A cataract is an opacity on the lens of the eye. Unlike lenticular sclerosis, where the fibrous tissue builds up, a cataract causes a cloudy spot on the lens that grows over time. As the cataract grows, it blocks out light and reduces vision. When mature, cataracts can cause complete blindness, lens luxation, and painful inflammation of the eye.
Glaucoma occurs when there is increased pressure inside a dog's eye. When intraocular pressure remains high for too long, the optic nerve can become permanently damaged. This condition is very painful and can lead to blindness.
A corneal ulcer is an injury to the surface of the eye (the cornea). Corneal ulcers typically occur when the cornea becomes scraped or scratched due to friction or trauma. The injured area becomes painful and the dog may make the ulcer worse by rubbing the eye. Many other eye conditions can lead to corneal ulcers. Left untreated, corneal ulcers can cause major damage to the eye.
Corneal Endothelial Degeneration
Corneal endothelial degeneration is an age-related condition in dogs that causes opacity of the cornea. This condition occurs when the endothelial cells within the cornea no longer maintain a proper balance of fluids in the tissue of the cornea. This results in cloudiness that can lead to blindness. Corneal endothelial degeneration can cause painful secondary eye complications.
Corneal dystrophy also causes opacity to the cornea of the eye. This condition occurs due to calcium or cholesterol deposits that build up on the cornea. Some dogs are genetically predisposed to corneal dystrophy. Corneal dystrophy may cause painful corneal ulcers and lead to blindness.
Treatment for Cloudy Eyes in Dogs
The proper treatment for cloudy eyes in dogs depends on the cause of the cloudiness:
- There is no treatment available for lenticular sclerosis, nor is treatment necessary.
- Cataracts can only be treated with surgery.
- Glaucoma is treated with topical eye medications to lower intraocular pressure.
- Corneal ulcers are treated with topical medications, but severe ulcers may require surgical treatment.
- Treatment options for corneal endothelial degeneration are limited. Medications may be used as palliative treatment. Some specialized surgical options may be available through a veterinary ophthalmologist.
- Corneal dystrophy may be treated with a special diet to regulate cholesterol and calcium levels. Topical medications may also be used to manage this condition as well as secondary problems. Surgery may be necessary in some cases.
Treatment for cloudy eyes has a better chance of success if the eye disease is detected early. Contact your veterinarian to schedule an examination at the first signs of cloudy eyes in your dog.
How to Prevent Cloudy Eyes
The best way to prevent most eye issues and other health problems in your dog is to visit the vet once or twice a year for a routine veterinary exam. This can allow the vet to detect and treat problems early, especially as your dog gets older.
Cloudy eyes cannot always be prevented. For example, you cannot prevent eye cloudiness that occurs with aging, as is the case with lenticular sclerosis.
Cataracts may be hereditary and not preventable. However, because diabetes mellitus may lead to cataract development, you can help prevent it by preventing or properly managing diabetes.
Glaucoma may be prevented by preventing or managing the eye diseases that can cause it.
Corneal ulcers may be prevented by protecting your dog from traumatic injuries and keeping your dog from rubbing the eyes due to other eye problems.
Corneal endothelial degeneration is often age-related, but may also occur secondary to other eye issues. You may be able to prevent it by identifying and treating eye problems in your dog.
Corneal dystrophy may be preventable by keeping calcium and cholesterol levels under control. Your vet can run routine lab tests to periodically check these levels. In fact, routine lab work is a good way to monitor your dog's overall health.