Like humans, dogs' eyes change as they age. These changes may affect the appearance of the eyes and cause concerns about blindness. Lenticular sclerosis, also known as nuclear sclerosis, is an age-related eye condition that causes a hazy or blueish appearance on the lens of the eyes. Although it can impair a dog's vision to some degree, this is a harmless condition that requires no treatment and does not lead to blindness.
Lenticular sclerosis can, however, be mistaken for other conditions such as cataracts, so a veterinary diagnosis is important if you notice changes in your dog's eyes.
What Is Lenticular Sclerosis?
Lenticular sclerosis is an age-related eye condition that involves fibrotic accumulation within the lens of the eye, creating a hazy, blueish appearance that resembles a cataract but is less serious.
Symptoms of Lenticular Sclerosis in Dogs
Although it can mimic the appearance or early stages of cataracts, lenticular sclerosis is merely a fibrous "clouding" of the eye lens.
Lenticular sclerosis is a product of aging and usually begins to appear in middle-aged to senior dogs. The condition is painless and does not lead to blindness.
Causes of Lenticular Sclerosis
The lens of the eye is a transparent structure made of fibrous tissue that sits behind the iris. It assists with vision by focusing light onto the retina, helping to make images clear.
The normal lens of a dog's eye contains three parts:
- Cortex: the outer portion of the lens
- Capsule: the membrane that surrounds the lens
- Nucleus: the center of the lens
The lens changes and develops new layers regularly throughout life. To make way for new fibers, it pushes old fibers towards the nucleus of the lens because they are unable to leave the lens capsule.
As a dog ages, the old fibers in the lens become compacted, creating a cloudy appearance in the eye. This density is called lenticular or nuclear sclerosis.
Diagnosing Lenticular Sclerosis in Dogs
Dogs with lenticular sclerosis will typically have blue-hued, cloudy-looking eyes that may resemble cataracts. However, a veterinarian can distinguish between lenticular sclerosis and cataracts by closely examining the eyes.
During this exam, your vet may dilate the eyes with drops and use a special light and a handheld lens to visualize the inside and back of each eye.
It's important to visit your vet when you first notice changes in your dog's eyes. The cause of the changes may or may not be related to lenticular sclerosis. Other eye conditions can occur at the same time and may not be apparent, and some eye conditions like glaucoma will become worse or even irreversible if left untreated.
No treatment is available for lenticular sclerosis, but the condition does not cause discomfort or significant vision loss.
If your dog has other eye conditions, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist for an expert opinion, to get advanced diagnostics, and to discuss treatment options.
Prognosis for Dogs with Lenticular Sclerosis
Lenticular sclerosis does not significantly affect vision in dogs. Over time, your dog may see images less clearly, especially from a distance. If you notice that your dog's vision is abnormal, it is most likely due to another eye issue, such as cataracts or age-related retinal changes. Your veterinarian should be able to detect the cause of vision loss during the eye exam or by performing special eye tests.
If your dog is experiencing vision loss due to cataracts or another eye problem, lenticular sclerosis may have a mild impact on the vision because it is compounded with the primary problem.
If your dog loses its sight due to age or disease, there are ways to help your blind dog live a good life. Patience and consistency are the most important factors when it comes to caring for a blind dog.
How to Prevent Lenticular Sclerosis
Unfortunately, there is no reliable way to prevent lenticular sclerosis. An age-appropriate, nutritious dog food without artificial colors or fillers can help maintain a dog's health—including its eyes—into its senior years. Regular exercise and the maintenance of a healthy weight are also key factors in keeping your dog's body fit and functional as long as possible.