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What are Cloudy Eyes?

If your dog’s eyes have a thin coating of bluish-gray film, you could say that your dog’s eyes are cloudy. This could simply be a by-product of age, but could also indicate a more serious medical problem. 

  • Lenticular sclerosis
  • Ocular melanosi
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Corneal ulcer

It is normal for any dog’s eyes to start to become cloudy sometime between six and eight years of age, and treatment is not usually necessary or recommended for slight normal age-related cloudiness. However, any visible change in your dog’s eyes should always be checked out with your veterinarian, as it could be a sign of something more serious.

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Why Cloudy Eyes Occurs in Dogs

Your dog’s cloudy eyes fall into one of three categories: harmless age-related cloudiness, harmful age-related cloudiness, and non-age-specific illness and injury. Lenticular sclerosis is the most common condition, as it happens to every dog over 8 years old, and can begin as early as 6 years of age.

Lenticular Sclerosis

It is normal for a dog’s vision to deteriorate somewhat with age. Lenticular sclerosis typically happens as your dog’s body adjusts to predictable ongoing changes. As the fibers of your dog’s lens compress the lens, they create an increasing hardness and cloudy appearance. This happens to all dogs as they age. Lenticular sclerosis can be correlated with the development of cataracts, but it is a separate condition. 

Ocular Melanosis

Ocular melanosis is a genetically-based condition usually found in dogs from 5 to 11 years old, especially in Cairn Terriers. In this condition, melanocytes accumulate abnormally in the eye, causing a blockage of aqueous humor. This creates excessive pressure under the dog’s eye, causing glaucoma. 

Cataracts

Common but dangerous, cataracts are an accumulation of protein within the eye which can cause vision loss. The excessive protein prevents the lens from staying sufficiently hydrated, and appears as a cloudy film over the eye. Smooth Fox Terriers, American Cocker Spaniels, Bichon Frise, Havanese, Silky and Boston Terriers, and Poodles of all sizes, among others, are more susceptible than average to developing cataracts.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition in which an excess of fluid builds up inside the eye, creating increased pressure. Besides glaucoma being painful for your dog, 40% of dogs with glaucoma become blind within a year. Primary glaucoma is genetically based, while secondary glaucoma is caused by some kind of trauma, such as infection, injury, or a tumor. While any dog can suffer from secondary glaucoma, Basset Hounds, Beagles, Chow Chows, Samoyeds, and Siberian Huskies, among others, are genetically predisposed to developing primary glaucoma.

Corneal Ulcer

Corneal ulcers can develop if abrasions or lacerations to your dog’s cornea are left untreated. As the  most external portion of the eye, the cornea is quite important for keeping your dog’s eye safe and healthy. When an ulcer develops, the cornea has developed an opening to the internal regions of your dog’s eye. Dogs with bulging eyes, such as Boxers, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Pugs, and Shih Tzus, are most susceptible to corneal ulcers.

What to do if your Dog is Cloudy Eyes

If your dog develops age-related lenticular sclerosis, do nothing. Your dog is fine. Though his vision is likely changing, there is no pain, and his body will adapt to these gradual changes. Do watch for cataracts, though, as these can develop along with lenticular sclerosis. The only way to treat cataracts is surgery, and this is only possible if your dog is otherwise healthy. During cataract surgery, your dog’s lens will be removed or emulsified, then will be replaced with a synthetic lens implant. You will need to administer eye drops for up to a month following surgery, possibly along with antibiotics and pain medication.

Ocular melanosis cannot be cured, though it can be treated with anti-inflammatories, pain medication, and medication and laser surgery to reduce fluid accumulation. Ocular melanosis can lead to glaucoma. Less serious cases of glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, ointments, or oral medication, but surgery may be required, up to and including laser surgery and removal of the eyeball. While corneal lacerations and abrasions can heal on their own, once they reach the point of ulceration, they often require surgery.

Prevention of Cloudy Eyes

As it is a normal part of the aging process, you cannot prevent lenticular sclerosis, and should not worry about it. Neither cataracts nor glaucoma can be prevented, but if glaucoma is caught and treated early, its effects will be much less severe. If your dog’s breed is prone to glaucoma, you should monitor your dog’s eyes carefully, and bring him in to have his visual health checked by your veterinarian every six months. As ocular melanosis is congenital, it cannot be prevented. On the other hand, as corneal ulcers are the result of trauma to the eye, they can be prevented by keeping your dog’s eyes safe from any kind of trauma. 

Cost of Cloudy Eyes

The national average cost of treating lenticular sclerosis is $250, while treatment of a corneal ulcer averages $350. Glaucoma treatment costs $900 on average, while cataracts cost an average of $2500 to treat.