Cloudy Eyes In Dogs
You love your dog, so when you look into their eyes you expect nothing other than a friendly gaze from your loving pet. But when his eyes appear cloudy, you worry—understandably so.
Cloudy eyes in dogsmay indicate serious problems with their health.
I always say that dogs can’t tell us when they’re sick, so it’s up to us as their guardians to be aware of any sudden changes in their behavior or appearance. If one or both of your dog’s eyes are looking different, take him to the vet immediately for a check-up.
While there are many possible reasons for cloudy eyes in dogs, some conditions can be prevented, or at least treated, if you catch them early on. Pay attention to these seven potential causes of eye irritation and cloudiness.
Cataracts are a common eye problem for dogs. A cataract is a cloudy film that forms over the lens of the eye, which can eventually lead to blindness.
Cataracts can form for a number of reasons, but the most common is aging. It’s why this condition affects older dogs more often than young ones.
Other causes of cataracts include:
- Injury to the head or eye
- Diabetes mellitus
- Systemic hypertension
- Infectious diseases
- Some medications
Cataracts usually develop slowly over a period of several months to years. The progression varies from one breed to the next.
Cataracts can lead to blindness, but this is not always the case. In many cases, they can be successfully treated with surgery. If your dog’s cataracts are not treated, he will eventually go blind, but this might take several years.
If you notice that your dog’s vision changes or his eyes appear to have a blue or gray cloudy film, he might have cataracts and should see a veterinarian.
The veterinarian will perform a complete eye exam, including an ultrasound to check the lens for any signs of cataracts.
Depending on the severity of cataracts, treatment might involve surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial one. In some cases, cataracts might not be severe enough to require surgery, and your dog will just need to be monitored regularly.
2. Lenticular Sclerosis
Also called nuclear sclerosis, lenticular sclerosis is a natural and normal change that occurs in the lens of the eye as a dog ages. The lens becomes thicker and more yellow.
This change does not affect a dog’s vision and no treatment is necessary.
While lenticular sclerosis is a normal effect of aging, it can sometimes be confused with other conditions that affect the eye, such as cataracts.
Some dogs develop age-related cataracts after having lenticular sclerosis. While the two conditions seem related, there is no scientific evidence for a causal relationship. According to experts, not all pets with lenticular sclerosis will develop cataracts.
This table summarizes the key differences between lenticular sclerosis and cataracts:
|Appears as an even, pearly opacity with a gray-to-bluish tinge||Appear as whitish chunks of crushed ice that vary in size, shape, and opacity|
|Affects both eyes equally and simultaneously||May affect one or both eyes|
|Doesn’t cause loss of vision||May cause loss of vision|
Rather than assume that cloudy eyes in dogs are caused by a benign condition, it is always best to have your veterinarian take a look.
You never know, regardless of the diagnosis there might be hope for him to regain his vision. I say this because I have a blind foster pup named Kobe, who we’re hoping will be able to see once he gets surgery.
This big, sweet, floppy puppy has so much life to live and despite his health conditions; he’s such a good sport! In this video, you can see how I get him to go places with me.
3. Corneal Ulcers
Any dog can get an ulcer on his cornea, but this condition is more common in dogs with short noses.
Corneal ulcers are one of the most difficult eye problems to treat because they can be so painful. If left untreated they can cause blindness.
If your dog is suffering from a corneal ulcer, he will likely squint and paw at his eye. You might notice that the area is red or has blisters. If you take him to the vet right away, there’s a good chance your dog can recover his vision after treatment.
Corneal ulcers are usually caused by trauma—for example, getting something stuck in the eye—or by bacterial or fungal infections.
The cornea is similar to the outer layer of your own skin, so any infection that affects the skin can also affect this part of the eye. Such infections include:
- Sarcoptic mange: a parasitic disease caused by mites
- Corneal dystrophy: an inherited condition that causes a dog’s cornea to become rough and develop ulcers
- Disco-conjunctivitis: also known as “pink eye”
- Keratoconjunctivitis sicca or dry eye syndrome
Corneal ulcers are usually treated with strong pain medication along with antibiotics to fight any infection. Using a topical ointment or gel might also be recommended. If the ulcer is severe, your dog could require surgery.
Glaucoma is a condition that affects the optic nerve and can lead to blindness if not treated. It is caused by an increase in pressure within the eye.
Glaucoma is more common in older dogs, and certain breeds, like Shih Tzus, are more prone to it.
Symptoms of glaucoma include:
- Redness of the eye
If you suspect that your dog might have glaucoma, take him to the vet right away.
Your veterinarian will take a look inside the eye to check its pressure. Using an ultrasound, he can see if there’s been damage to your dog’s optic nerve or if there are any other issues that might be causing increased pressure.
Glaucoma is usually treated with medication, such as drops or pills, that will help to lower the pressure in the eye. In some cases, surgery is necessary.
5. Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) or Dry Eye
As its name suggests, dry eye is a condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tears, leading to eye discomfort and vision problems.
Dogs with KCS may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
- Cloudy eyes in dogs
- Inflammation of the eyelids
- Stringy, thick, yellow, or green eye discharge
- Eye redness
- Sensitivity to light that results in squinting
- Painful eyes that cause your dog to blink a lot or rub his face
Symptoms of KCS may develop gradually or suddenly, depending on the severity of the condition and the individual dog.
Some dogs will show signs of discomfort immediately, while others are not affected by dry eye until there has been significant damage to the cornea.
KCS is a progressive disease, meaning that it will get worse over time if left untreated. Untreated, KCS can lead to permanent damage to the eyes, including blindness.
There is no one definitive cause of this disease, but several factors can contribute to its development. These include:
- Genetic predisposition
- Immune system problems such as allergies or autoimmune conditions
- Possible link to the hormonal condition diabetes mellitus
- Exposure to irritants, such as lawn chemicals or cleaners
For the most part, this is an age-related disease. It can develop at any time in a dog’s life but is more common in middle-aged and older animals.
Diagnosis of dry eye is based on medical history, clinical signs, and response to treatment. An examination by an ophthalmologist may be required for a definitive diagnosis.
Some tests—including the Schirmer tear test, Rose Bengal staining, and Fluorescein dye—may be performed to measure the degree of damage to the surface of the eye.
There are a number of treatments available for dry eye, depending on the severity of the condition. Treatments for cloudy eyes in dogs may include:
- Lubricating eye ointments
- Anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation and irritation
- Antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections
Medications may be applied directly into the dog’s eyes or given orally. In addition, your veterinarian will likely recommend that you:
- Restrict activity around your home so chemicals don’t get into your dog’s eyes
- Keep your dog’s environment humidified
- Provide plenty of fresh water to drink
There is no known cure for dry eye, but with treatment, dogs with this condition can still live long and healthy lives.
As with most diseases, early diagnosis and treatment are key to preventing further damage to the eyes. My wife and I spent weeks with Willie, a blind 5 month old pup. Had he received the proper medical attention right away, he wouldn’t have lost his eyesight.
Still, that doesn’t stop him from living his best life! Despite his rough start, he’s very active, playful, and mischievous. In this video, you can see just how much he enjoyed his first puppuccino!
Pannus is a rare, chronic autoimmune disease that affects the eyes of dogs.
It is estimated to occur in less than 1% of all dogs and is seen most commonly in German Shepherds, Greyhounds, Huskies, and other large breed dogs.
Dogs living in areas with high altitudes and severe pollution are also more likely to develop this condition.
Pannus results in the inflammation and thickening of the cornea, which can lead to vision loss. It looks very similar to KCS, but dogs with this condition have normal tear production and no pain.
Diagnosis is made by observing clinical signs, combined with a tear production test.
There is no known cure for pannus, but treatment can help to slow its progress. Treatment may include eye drops, ointments, or surgery. In some cases, a dog’s eyes may need to be surgically removed if they become severely damaged.
Uveitis refers to an inflammation of the eye that can lead to blindness. It occurs when there is damage or irritation to the uvea—the middle layer of the eye that contains blood vessels, connective tissue, and melanin.
Uveitis can be caused by a number of things, including:
- Infections such as canine distemper or parvovirus
- Autoimmune diseases
- Trauma to the eye
The most common symptoms of uveitis are:
- Redness in the eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision
- Swollen eyelids
Uveitis is diagnosed by a veterinarian based on a complete medical history and physical examination. A number of tests, including bloodwork and x rays, may be performed.
Treatment may include eye drops, ointments, and medications given orally or injected into the eye. Surgery may also be required in some cases.
There is no known cure for uveitis, but with treatment, most dogs can regain some vision. Treatment is typically long-term and must be tailored to the individual.
About Rocky Kanaka
I’m a pet rescue advocate, Emmy-nominated host and creator of my own show. My passion is sharing stories about rescue dogs, pet adoption, fostering, and volunteering because I believe that every dog deserves a loving home.
I’m a dog dad to a rescued boxer named Flip, a blind Cane Corso named Kobe, and a senior terrier-mix named Zoey, along with the many foster dogs I help on their way to their forever home.
Enjoy magical transformations, heart-warming rescues and meeting unique people and their incredible dogs.