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What are Asteroid Hyalosis?

Eyes are a very delicate organ; anytime something is abnormal in regards to the eye, the sooner you seek diagnosis and treatment the better.  Asteroid hyalosis may appear as a sparkly object in your dog’s eye which you may notice at home.  When you take him to your veterinarian, she may perform some tests on his eye to rule out other possible eye conditions.  Once confirmed, your veterinarian may offer your dog some supportive therapies if needed, but with most dogs, treatment is not needed at all.  There is the option of surgical correction, but most dogs live a full life of comfort and good vision if you do not do anything at all.

Asteroid hyalosis in dogs is similar to that of a floater in the human eye.  The condition can develop sporadically in your dog but typically, it develops with age.  If you believe your dog is experiencing an eye abnormality, consult with your veterinarian.

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Symptoms of Asteroid Hyalosis in Dogs

If this condition is affecting your dog, you may notice:

  • Round particles in his eye with a sparkly appearance
  • Multiple, white, small, round, refractile particles within the vitreous
  • Slight vision impairment, but rare

Types

Asteroid hyalosis is a type of vitreal degeneration involving the liquefaction of the vitreous humor.  This condition is also known as vitreal degeneration and liquefied vitreous.  If severe enough, the condition can interfere with your dog’s vision and may be more commonly seen in middle-aged to older dogs.

Causes of Asteroid Hyalosis in Dogs

Asteroid hyalosis is a degenerative condition and has been associated with degenerative eye disorders and chronic inflammation.  While it is more commonly seen in older dogs, it can be seen spontaneously in some animals.  It can occur in one eye or both and may or may not be associated with posterior vitreal detachment.  The asteroid bodies are considered liquid crystals formed by calcium and phospholipids.  The exact cause of asteroid hyalosis is unknown.

Diagnosis of Asteroid Hyalosis in Dogs

You may first notice your dog’s condition at home by the appearance.  You may see multiple white sparkles that move or vibrate slightly when the eye moves.  When you take him to the veterinarian for an evaluation, she will begin by performing a full physical exam.  When she examines his eyes, she will look with her ophthalmoscope.  This is a type of instrument that provides a wider and larger view of the inside of your dog’s eye.  It allows the veterinarian to check the retina and internal structures even if cataracts are present.  

To rule out other eye injury conditions, your veterinarian may want to perform a fluorescein stain test.  This will allow her to check for any ulcers or scratches on the surface of your dog’s eye.  She may also want to perform a Schirmer’s tear test to check the tear production of the eye.  If the level is too low, then he is suffering from dry eye which may cause secondary issues.

If your veterinarian is unable to determine what his condition is, she may recommend your pet be seen by a veterinary ophthalmologist.  These veterinarians specialize in eyes and diseases affecting the eyes in animals.  They will be able to confirm or deny the diagnosis.

For imaging, your veterinarian may recommend an ultrasound.  Multiple highly reflective echoes distributed evenly throughout the vitreous provide detailed images.  An ultrasound is a more sensitive imaging and allows for a better detection of vitreal degeneration that just the ophthalmoscope alone.

Treatment of Asteroid Hyalosis in Dogs

When eyes are involved, the sooner you seek treatment the better.  Supportive therapies may be suggested, for example, various vitamin mixtures can be helpful.  Surgical intervention may include a procedure known as a vitrectomy.  The purpose of the surgery is to remove a portion or all of the vitreous humor from the affected eye.  Overall, most dogs do very well without any form of treatment whatsoever.

Recovery of Asteroid Hyalosis in Dogs

In the majority of patients, treatment is not needed.  The prognosis of the eye maintaining good vision and comfort is very good.  In more severe cases of asteroid hyalosis, the vision may be slightly impaired but the condition is similar to that of a floater in the human eye; more of an annoyance.  While it will not go away, your dog can live a full life with it in his eye.