For the love of your pet: Cloudiness in eyes caused from several different conditions

Feb. 16, 2012 at midnight
Updated Feb. 15, 2012 at 8:16 p.m.

By John Beck

When I look my dog in his eyes, it seems cloudy sometimes . other times it looks just fine. What could that be?

You are most likely dealing with the start of cataracts. The word "cataract" refers to opacity in the lens. It can be the entire lens or just a small part. Normally, the lens is clear and is located behind the colored part of the eye (the iris).

The purpose of the lens is to focus light as it moves toward the back part of the eye. If the lens is completely opaque or cloudy, this prevents passage of light through the eye, thus leading to blindness.

For the most part, cataracts are inherited but can also be caused from diabetes. Many different breeds are affected but some of the more common ones are miniature poodles, cocker spaniels, miniature schnauzers, golden retrievers, Boston terriers and Siberian huskies.

Hereditary cataracts can be present at birth, but for the most part develop later in life. By the time you notice the change in your pet's eyes, approximately 60 percent of the lens has already been affected.

Cataracts can sometimes be wrongly assumed if not diagnosed by a veterinarian. Sclerosis can cause cloudiness in the eye (specifically the lens) but not alter or impair the vision. This is a normal change that comes with age and is caused by the lens fibers undergoing change.

Associated deterioration of the back of the eye (retina) can also cause some changes in vision. If it is the retina causing the problem, you will usually find that your pet sees well during the day but loses vision at night or in dimly lit places.

If your pet is truly diagnosed with cataracts, there are some things you can do. Your veterinarian might prescribe eye drops to help with inflammation or redness in the eye. Chronic eye infection and inflammation can make cataracts progress faster.

There are also some newer eye drops on the market that claim to reduce the opacification of the lens in dogs. Surgery might also be a consideration. A referral can be made to a clinic that provides this surgery in which the lens can be completely replaced. Surgery is only an option for hereditary cataracts (not those caused by diabetes).

If you have any other questions, please contact me or your local veterinarian.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at



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