Causes of Cloudy Eyes In Dogs: It’s Not Always Cataracts

We all love our dogs, especially when they gaze up at us with their cute eyes. However, whenever you notice anything strange with your dog’s eyes, you have a reason to be concerned. One of the most common things you might see about your dog is cloudy eyes.

To most dog owners, cloudy eyes usually mean that their dog has cataracts. Although cataracts are the first culprit for dogs’ cloudy eyes, there are other causes. Although these other causes of misty eyes in dogs might be less common, there is still cause for concern.

If you notice any changes in your dog’s eyes, you should always take them seriously. Why is this? Well, because not only are your dog’s eyes the key to its soul, but they are also “windows” into your dog’s health.

The appearance of your dog’s eyes can let you know your dog’s state of health. Let’s take a look at what it might mean if your dog has cloudy eyes.

6 Causes of Cloudy Eyes In Dogs

1. Lenticular Sclerosis

Canine with Lenticular Sclerosis

Dog with Lenticular Sclerosis [Source]

As mentioned above, many dog owners may think that cloudy eyes mean that their dogs have cataracts. However, sometimes the shadowy reflection in your dog’s eyes may be a sign of lenticular sclerosis. The eye lens (found at the back of the eye) helps your dog see clearly. 

Throughout your dog’s life, the lens will grow new layers. As a result, the lens structure will change as your dog ages. 

The pupils of your dog’s eyes will, therefore, appear cloudy or hazy as a result of the change in the structure of the lens on your dog’s eyes. This cloudiness is why lenticular sclerosis may sometimes be mistaken for cataracts.

Fortunately for your dog, lenticular sclerosis only occurs in older dogs. It also does not affect vision drastically unless your dog is kind of ancient.

Apart from cloudy eyes, here are other symptoms of lenticular sclerosis:

  • Lack of vision
  • Lack of depth and distance perception
  • Cloudiness in both eyes

How Lenticular Sclerosis is Diagnosed and Treated in Dogs

Canine at the vet getting an eye exam

Your veterinarian will need to do a detailed eye examination to diagnose lenticular sclerosis effectively.  The vet should evaluate the eye’s structure to reveal whether your dog has cataracts or lenticular sclerosis.

When it comes to the treatment of lenticular sclerosis, there is no medication for it. However, there is no pain involved when your dog is suffering from this condition.

Once your dog has been diagnosed with lenticular sclerosis, your vet will advise you to make necessary changes to accommodate your dog’s unique needs, like assisting your dog to take the stairs.

2. Dry Eye

Canine with dry eyes

Dog getting checked out for KCS [dry eye]

Dry eyes are also a condition that is usually accompanied by cloudy eyes. This condition is medically known as “Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)”.

This condition results from the inability of the tear glands of the eyes to produce enough tear film. 

KCS will leave the eyes dry as the tear glands won’t sufficiently lubricate them.  The eyes will, therefore, look cloudy. If this dry eye condition is left untreated, it can cause blindness. It’s also very painful. 

There are several causes of dry eye in dogs. However, in most cases, there is usually an underlying autoimmune disease. If this is the case, you will need to treat your dogs’ eyes with medication. The treatment may last for as long as the rest of your dog’s life.

3. Pannus

Canine with Pannus [Source]

Dogs eyes with Pannus [Source]

Pannus in dogs is also known as chronic superficial keratitis. Just like KCS, it’s also an immune-mediated condition. It’s a condition that is common in German shepherds and other breeds that are close to it. It's a condition that affects the cornea of the eye.

Cloudy eyes are one of the clinical signs of pannus. The cloudiness that may appear on the cornea is often a result of a non-painful elevated mass. This condition may sometimes affect both eyes. Pannus is known to occur in older dogs. Moreover, experts think it to be a hereditary condition.

Although it’s common in German shepherds, it can also affect any dog breed. Other factors that might make your dog develop pannus are increased exposure to ultraviolet light. Smoke and high altitude may also contribute to your dog developing pannus.

Treating pannus involves the use of topical corticosteroids. Professionals also use other drugs to modulate the immune system to treat pannus. In case pannus develops into a secondary infection, your dog may require antibiotics.

However, it’s essential to know that treatment will not cure it once your dog has developed this condition. Treatment will only prevent it from progressing and may also reverse some changes.

4. Corneal Ulcer

Canine eye with a corneal ulcer

Dog eye with Corneal Ulcer

The transparent membrane that makes up the eyeball’s front is the cornea. The cornea has three layers of highly specialized skin cells.

A corneal ulcer occurs when this layer becomes eroded. As a result of the cornea getting eroded, fluid in the eyes will be absorbed into the tears’ stroma. This erosion is what will make the eyes appear cloudy. 

The leading cause of corneal ulcers is blunt trauma. This trauma may be due to your dog rubbing its eyes on the carpet. Or as a result of sharp objects coming into contact with the eyes.

A corneal ulcer is diagnosed with the use of special stains that are known as fluorescein. Moreover, special equipment is needed because it’s not easy to detect corneal ulcers. 

Corneal ulcers are usually excruciating. Therefore, you should take your dog for a medical checkup once you notice some cloudiness in the eyes of your canine. You can treat your dog with corneal ulcers by administering antibiotic drops.

5. Glaucoma

Canine with Glaucoma

Older dog with Glaucoma [Source]

Glaucoma in dogs is a result of inadequate fluid drainage in the eyes. This poor drainage in the eyes is caused by pressure being placed in the eyes.

Glaucoma may become chronic, leading to permanent damage to the optic nerve if left untreated. This eye condition can lead to blindness.

Although glaucoma can affect any dog breed, it is usually common in certain dog breeds like poodles, chow chows, and Siberians.

Symptoms of glaucoma include:

  • Cloudy Eyes
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Rapid Blinking
  • Enlarged Eyeball

Fortunately, glaucoma is treatable. Once your dog has been diagnosed with glaucoma, your vet will prescribe drugs that lower the pressure in your dog’s eyes.

The fluid producing cells may also be altered to stop them from producing a lot of fluids. This process is known as “cyclocryotherapy.”

6. Uveitis

Canine with Uveitis

Closeup of a dog eye with Uveitis [Source]

This term is one of those weird terms used by ophthalmologists that no one can really understand. However, uveitis just means inflammation of the uveal tract. Uveitis can lead to inflammation of the iris and its structures.

Many signs and symptoms are associated with uveitis. These symptoms include redness of the eye and cloudiness of the eye. The vision can also become sensitive to light.

Several things can cause uveitis. However, most of the diseases that cause uveitis are usually infectious. Cancer and other metabolic diseases are also among the causes of uveitis in dogs.

The usual sign of uveitis is cloudiness in the eyes. Another sign of uveitis is an intense reddening of the eye that is usually accompanied by severe pain. Some of the signs and symptoms of uveitis are similar to glaucoma.

When treating uveitis, your vet will provide your dog with pain relief and treatment (eye drops and ointments) to reduce the eyes’ inflammation.

Tips For Cloudy Eyes in Your Dog

Canine getting treated for cloudy eyes

It’s normal to worry about your dog. If you notice anything shady with those beguiling eyes, then you should take some action.

Here are some smart steps that you should take:

Don't D-I-Y

Animals usually share their eye issues. However, you should never assume that you can share your eye drops with your dog. Avoid using any medication or method you might use for your eye issues. 

When you notice cloudiness in your dog’s eyes, you should just consult your veterinarian.

Diet Review

A poor diet also causes some of these eye issues. You can also review your puppy’s diet to make the cloudiness in her eyes go away. This is because eye issues can be linked back to proper nutrition.

Check Twice Daily

Cloudiness in the eye can sometimes be due to trauma and nothing serious. Once you notice that your dog’s eyes are cloudy, you should give them a check at least twice a day for two days.

If the cloudiness doesn’t go away by then, know that it is time to visit your vet so that your dog can get medication.

Final Thoughts

It is normal to get concerned when you notice anything strange with your dog’s eyes. People typically associate cloudy dog eyes with cataracts. However, this is not always the case.

If your dog’s eyes have not become cloudy because of cataracts, then the other conditions given above could be the causes of cloudy eyes in dogs.

We believe that you now have enough knowledge concerning why your dog could be having cloudy eyes. Do all the best you can to keep your dog’s eyes healthy.

Additional Resource: Chummy Doggy

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