Why do an old dog’s eyes go grey?
Have you noticed that your older dog’s eyes become hazy? This is particularly noticeable at night time. There are two common reasons why this happens.
The first condition is age-related. As pets age the fibres in the lens naturally get more dense and compact, creating a greyish blue haze to the centre of the eye. This condition is called “lenticular sclerosis” or “nuclear sclerosis” and does not typically compromise vision. It also leads to night blindness and a loss of depth perception. Lenticular sclerosis appears as an evenly grey, rounded opacity (cloudiness) in the centre of the lens, and is most easily observed when the pupil is dilated – like during a vet visit or at night time. There is no specific treatment for lenticular sclerosis, nor is treatment necessary. We would still like to monitor your pet’s eyes regularly to make sure that cataracts are not developing in the eyes.
The second reason can be because of cataracts. Cataracts are white and opaque and block light from reaching the retina. This will lead to blindness. Mature cataracts cause the lens to go hard and shrivel up (like a grape becoming a raisin) The loss of water and protein from the lens causes it to shrivel up and form a Mercedes Benz like symbol in the lens. There are several causes of cataracts, including diabetes, infection, nutritional, and age-related degeneration. Treatment usually is unrewarding in terms of reversing the cataract, and surgery is the only option for a cure.
Cataracts and lenticular sclerosis are two of the most common eye problems seen in dogs over the age of nine. Some estimates show the prevalence of one of the above conditions at 50% in dogs over nine years of age and 100% in dogs over the age of thirteen.
There are also other reasons for the eyes of dogs to go cloudy. Sometimes the cornea becomes waterlogged. In these cases, the whole surface of the eye becomes opaque and not just the lens. This can be a sign that some of the corneal cells are dying (age-related) and the cornea struggles to regulate the amount of water in the cells. The right type of eye drops can help with this. It can also be a sign of severe systemic diseases
If you are suspicious of a cataract or a subtle decline in vision, please make an appointment with your family vet straight away.