Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What Do Cloudy Eyes Mean?

There can be a lot of questions and confusion out there regarding the changes we see in our dog's eyes, especially as they age.  I've noticed a tendency for dog owners to assume their dog has cataracts, when in fact there are other causes for that cloudy look that concerns us.

To dispel the myth that cloudy eyes is caused only by cataracts or glaucoma, let me introduce you to a condition called senile nuclear (lenticular) sclerosis.  Sounds scary.. it isn't.  It is a very normal change in the eyes of many animals as they age.  As the cells in their eyes grow older, the cells can become dehydrated and the cells begin to overlap each other.  The light reflecting off of those older cells looks differently, and it appears cloudy.  The eye may appear grey or opaque.  The good news, is that on the whole their vision is maintained!  I think often we see this cloudy look emerging, and we say "Oh, he's going blind".  There can always be other medical conditions at play, but if it's simply nuclear sclerosis, this may not be true.  (Your cats can have this happen also.)

Cataracts, however, do cause blindness.  Your veterinarian will determine which condition your dog has.  While often an inherited disease, it can also be caused by diabetes, trauma, electric shock, hypocalcemia (lacking calcium) and vitamin deficiencies, to name a few.  Cataracts are removed by surgery, and of course we address and treat any underlying conditions which may have caused them.

There are many conditions which affect the eye, and the above picture isn't meant to be diagnostic.  On the whole, it's important for owners to be aware that some changes in the eye can be normal due to aging!

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