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Ever wonder why your older dog has cloudy eyes?

If you’ve got a dog that is considered (gasp!) ‘senior’ – then I suggest looking into their eyes. You might have already noticed this, but do they look a bit milky, a bit cloudy? Has your vet ever mentioned this to you, discussed what might be going on? Cloudy eyes in older pets are so common that often, it is sadly overlooked as part of their physical check-ups. 

What is going on? 

For the vast majority of pet’s, what you are seeing is a condition known as ‘senile nuclear sclerosis’. This is when the lens in the eye becomes a bit old and stiff, it doesn’t bend very well to focus light and so your pet may see images a little blurry, especially at night time. Think of it as similar to looking through a dusty window. 

Does my pet need treatment? 

Absolutely not – this is a normal part of aging and why human’s wear reading glasses as we get older. So long as your pet isn’t flying any aeroplanes or driving trains, no treatment is necessary! For pet’s that do experience some night time blindness, leave a night light on! 

Could it be anything else?

Yes – and this is why it is so important that eyes are routinely examined at your pet’s physical check-ups. This condition can mimic another disease that you may be more familiar with – cataracts. As opposed to looking through a dusty window, as I explained above, having cataracts is like trying to look through a window which someone has thrown paint onto! You can see around the paint, but not through it. Cataracts cause blindness, are often painful and are pointing towards underlying illness, such as diabetes. 

I’m worried about my pet’s eyes – what can I expect from my vet?

If you have concerns about your pet’s eyes or vision, get to a vet as quickly as you can. Lots of eye problems are time-sensitive, meaning we get better outcomes if we see them quickly. Your vet will start with an examination of the external eye and eyelids, moving to an examination within the eyeball itself. They will scan the retina at the back of the eye, the lens and different eye chambers. They will also be interested to perform a test to measure for eye dryness, which involves placing a paper strip onto each eye for 1 minute. At the end of the exam, a yellow dye is dropped onto the eye to check for any surface ulcers or tear blockages. 

To examine the eyes, we often work in dark rooms and in very close proximity to your pet’s face – it can be a bit scary so I would encourage you to bring in some extra tasty snacks. If you think your pet might find this all too stressful, let us know BEFORE your appointment, and we can get a short-acting anti-anxiety medication on-board. 

Still not sure? Have more questions? Give us a call, or book an appointment online, let’s get to the bottom of it!

Dr. Vicky Wade

Veterinarian