Does My Dog Have Cataracts?

Cloudy eyes in an aging pet does not necessarily mean cataracts. Read on to find out more.

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT: Aging dogs often develop nuclear sclerosis, cloudiness of the eyes that does NOT impact their ability to see. However, there are many things that can impact your pet’s ability to see. If you notice your furry friend is having difficulty with his vision, schedule an appointment with your primary care veterinarian. 

My Dog Has Cloudy Eyes. Does He Have Cataracts?

As your pet gets older, you will likely start to observe age related changes. One common change that my clients are often first to notice is cloudiness of the eyes. It makes sense, really. They say eyes are a window to the soul. We speak and interact through eye contact. So, when changes occur clients are often very astute in noticing them. 

Many clients are concerned that cloudy eyes mean that their dog has cataracts and may even go blind. The good news is that this is not always the case.  A common cause of age-related eye cloudiness is nuclear sclerosis. 

Nuclear sclerosis is an increased in density of the fibers making up the lens of the of the eye. Unlike with cataracts, where the lens fibers are broken and no longer appropriately refract light, dogs with nuclear sclerosis have an age-related increase in density of their lens fibers. However, these fibers are intact and in an appropriate orientation so they should not cause deficits in vision. 

While many dogs will develop nuclear sclerosis with age, a smaller number will develop cataracts. When a dog has cataracts, the fibers of the lens are broken or out of their orientation. This means that the lens of the eye can no longer refract light appropriately and visual deficits are seen. 

My Dog Has Nuclear Sclerosis And is Running Into Things? Are You Sure He Can See?

Nuclear sclerosis does not cause visual defects. However, there are other conditions that can. Just like in people, we can see a loss of visual acuity in geriatric pets. Furthermore, specific disease impacting the vision pathway can cause an interruption in vision. In order to see, a dog must be able to receive the visual stimulus at the retina and send that information via their optic nerves to the brain for processing. Abnormalities at any point along this pathway can cause a pet to become blind. 

Changes within the eye can block visual signals from reaching the retina, changes in the retina can interfere with how the eye receive visual signals, and diseases of the optic nerve or brain can interfere with how the signals are processed. If you suspect that your pet can no longer see, please schedule a consultation with your primary care veterinarian for further evaluation. 

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