Dog with cloudy eyes

Key takeaway

If your dog’s eyes are cloudy, it could be due to old age or other health conditions, including dry eye, cataracts, glaucoma, ulcers, anterior uveitis, or corneal dystrophy. It’s important to treat cloudy eyes right away with the help of a veterinary professional to prevent cloudy eye complications, such as ulcers and total or partial blindness.

There’s no denying the importance of your dog’s eyes. After all, their eyes are vital for exploration and are like tiny windows to their soul. So, it can be quite alarming when you notice a slight change in the appearance of their eyes.

If you’re asking yourself, “why are my dog’s eyes cloudy?”, we’ll explore the most likely culprits in this guide and highlight a few treatment options. Keep reading to find out what could be causing your dog’s cloudy eyes or use the links below to get the answers you need fast.

Symptoms

Symptoms of cloudy dog eyes include an opaque or hazy appearance above the eye lens that can have a white or gray tint. Cloudy dog eyes can occur on one or both eyes and take up the whole surface area of the eyeball or a small spot. Depending on what’s making your dog’s eyes cloudy, it can impair their ability to see, causing them to bump into pieces of furniture more quickly, miss the stairs, or lose their excitement when showing them a treat.

Causes

Just like humans, there are a variety of health issues that can lead to cloudy eyes and hinder your dog’s ability to see well or not at all. We’ll explore a few of the most common causes of cloudy dog eyes below.

Dry Eye

Also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), dry eye is a condition in which your dog’s eyes do not produce enough tears to lubricate the area and maintain proper eye health. Although infrequent instances of dry eye won’t damage your dog’s vision, chronic KCS can scar the surface of the eyeball, leading to vision problems.1

If you believe your canine has dry eye, look out for other common symptoms, such as swelling, redness, milky discharge, and excessive blinking, and seek treatment right away. When left untreated, this can cause corneal ulceration and even blindness. Caught early, dry eye can be effectively managed with tear-inducing medication for long-term and often for the duration of your pet’s life.

Canine Cataracts

Canine cataracts cause the opacity of a dog’s eye lens to thicken, reducing the amount of light that can pass through to the retina. This can happen for several reasons, including diabetes, eye trauma, aging, and genetics.3 According to the American Kennel Club, breeds most commonly affected by canine cataracts include:3

Breeds most commonly affected by canine cataracts
  1. Australian Shepherd
  2. Bichon Frise
  3. Boston Terrier
  4. French Bulldog
  5. American Staffordshire Terrier
  6. Havanese
  7. Silky Terrier
  8. Miniature Schnauzer
  9. Poodle
  10. Cocker Spaniel
  11. Labrador Retriever
  12. Siberian Husky
  13. West Highland White Terrier

The only way to treat canine cataracts once they’ve developed is with surgery. So, it’s essential to have routine wellness checkups with your regular veterinarian for annual eye and health examinations to catch the disease early.

Nuclear Sclerosis

As your dog grows older, developing nuclear sclerosis (also known as lenticular sclerosis) is normal. In fact, according to the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, nuclear sclerosis is one of the most common culprits of eye changes in aging dogs.4

Nuclear sclerosis happens when the fibers located in the eye lens harden, making it difficult for your dog to identify objects near their line of vision. As the lens continues to harden, it can create a hazy and cloudy appearance, which resembles the cloudiness of a cataract. Although similar to canine cataracts, there are a few differences that set the two eye conditions apart, such as:

  • Cause: Nuclear sclerosis is usually brought on by old age, whereas cataracts are caused by medical or hereditary disease processes.
  • Treatment: Fortunately nuclear sclerosis is a benign process that does not require treatment. Unfortunately, the only way to treat canine cataracts is with surgery which is typically 95% effective.
  • Symptoms: Nuclear sclerosis is not painful, while cataracts can be extremely painful for dogs.

Despite the stark differences, the only way to confirm that it’s nuclear sclerosis or cataracts is with an eye exam performed by a veterinarian.

Canine Glaucoma

Canine glaucoma is when the pressure of fluid in your dog’s eye increases due to their environment, genetics, and medical conditions, causing damage to the optic nerve and retina.5 There are two types of canine glaucoma, including:

Types of canine glaucoma

  • Primary: Inherited glaucoma that affects specific breeds, such as Chow Chow, Cocker Spaniel, Beagle, Jack Russel terrier, and Siberian Husky.
  • Secondary: Caused by primary disease processes, like cancer, cataracts, and inflammation, or injuries.

Without appropriate treatment, canine glaucoma can eventually lead to blindness. There are treatment options for glaucoma, but there is no cure, like surgery and oral medications.

Ulcers

Corneal ulcers occur when the outer layer of your dog’s cornea, the epithelium, becomes damaged. As one of the most common eye problems, this can happen for several reasons, such as dry eye, injuries, irritation, and scratches.6 Notable corneal ulcer symptoms to look out for include squinting, frequent blinking, excessive tearing, redness, cloudiness, and brown to green ocular discharge.

Corneal ulcers are painful for your dog but will often heal within a few days with appropriate treatment. During this time, it’s important to keep an eye on them, as the ulcer can worsen and become infected due to frequent rubbing and lack of proper care. It’s vital to prevent the ulcer from developing further in order to keep the eye intact by seeking help right away.

Ulcers that have quickly progressed may require surgical intervention to prevent vision loss. This often will result in a longer healing process.

Anterior Uveitis

Anterior uveitis is a condition in which inflammation is present in your dog’s eyes due to leaking blood vessels.7 This can occur due to various reasons, such as cancer, autoimmune and metabolic diseases, infections, trauma, and parasites. Several tests may be required before a cause is diagnosed. In many situations, treatment will include eye drops, prescription medication, or both. Without proper care, it can cause permanent blindness.

Symptoms to watch for include squinting, constant rubbing, discharge, redness, vision changes, swelling, cloudiness, and avoidance of lights.

Corneal Dystrophy

Corneal dystrophy is an inherited eye disease, which can cause cloudiness in both of your dog’s corneas.

Types of corneal dystrophy

There are three types of corneal dystrophy, including:

  • Epithelial: Affects the most exterior layer of the cornea and may not generate other symptoms besides opaque eyes. Some dogs, however, can experience pain, light sensitivity, and frequent squinting. This can impact any breed.
  • Stromal: Impacts the middle layer of the cornea and is commonly diagnosed in younger dogs. Certain dog breeds are predisposed to stromal corneal dystrophies, such as cocker spaniels, bearded collies, and Weimaraners. Cloudiness can manifest in different colors, like gray, silver, and white.
  • Endothelial: The deepest layer of the cornea will be affected with endothelial corneal dystrophy. At the beginning stages, there may not be many symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, ulcers can form and lead to vision loss.

Many dogs that experience corneal dystrophy will not need treatment unless symptoms become worse and ulcers develop.

Dog having eyes examined by a vet

Diagnosing Cloudy Eyes in Dog’s

There are several reasons why your dog may be experiencing cloudy eyes, from glaucoma to dry eye—it can be challenging to diagnose the root of the problem on your own.

For this reason, it’s vital that your pet gets properly diagnosed by a veterinary professional that has the diagnostics and experience to identify what’s wrong. While this guide can lead you in the right direction, it’s always best to get confirmation from a veterinarian who can create a detailed treatment plan and help your dog feel better.

To diagnose cloudy eyes, a veterinarian may run a series of tests such as a Schirmer tear test, fluorescein stain, and/or tonometry. Based on the results, they can prescribe medication according to the health issue identified.

Treatment

Ultimately, the type of treatment your dog receives depends on the disease process of their dry eyes. Below, we’ll explore a few of the most common treatment options for the health conditions mentioned above.

  • Dry eye: To lubricate the eye, tear-stimulating medication may be prescribed.
  • Canine cataracts: Surgery is the only way to reduce the pain caused by cataracts and restore vision.
  • Nuclear sclerosis: Treatment for nuclear sclerosis is typically not needed since it’s not painful and does not cause blindness.
  • Canine glaucoma: Although there’s no cure for canine glaucoma, there are several surgical and medical options to reduce pressure and manage the pain.
  • Ulcers: There are topical medications and antibiotics that can be used for most corneal ulcers, but surgery may be recommended depending on the severity of the ulcers.
  • Anterior uveitis: In order to reduce inflammation, treatment may include topical eye and oral medications.
  • Corneal dystrophy: Currently, there aren’t any treatments that can assist with corneal dystrophy unless ulcers are present.

When it comes to cloudy eyes in dogs, preventing this health issue from occurring in the first place is key. You can do this by scheduling routine eye examinations with your dog’s veterinarian and seeking regular treatment to prevent chronic conditions from worsening.

Frequently Asked Questions: Dog’s Eyes Are Cloudy

Understandably, a change in the appearance of your dog’s eyes can be frightening. So, we’ve answered a few of the most commonly asked questions below to help guide your next steps when you realize your dog’s eyes are cloudy.

How do you treat cloudy eyes in dogs?

There are many ways to treat cloudy eyes in dogs. For example, if your dog has KCS, your veterinarian may prescribe eye drops to lubricate and moisten the eye’s surface. Alternatively, if your dog has an eye infection, they may prescribe ocular antibiotics in the form of drops or ointment. Treatment ultimately depends on what’s causing the cloudy eyes in the first place.

Dog receiving eye drops for cloudy eyes

What does it mean when a dog's eye is cloudy?

Cloudy eyes can be a symptom of different eye conditions, including glaucoma, nuclear sclerosis, dry eye, or corneal dystrophy. If you notice your dog’s eye becoming opaque, it’s best to seek medical attention as soon as possible to find out the cause.

What are the signs of a dog going blind?

Whether it’s due to aging or a health condition, there are various warning signs that can mean your dog is going blind. This includes:

  • Cloudy eyes
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Squinting
  • Bumping into objects
  • Difficulty navigating familiar areas with confidence
  • Increased anxiety

At what age do dogs’ eyes get cloudy?

Depending on the issue, your dog’s eyes can get cloudy at any age. However, certain conditions, such as nuclear sclerosis, are increasingly common in elderly dogs, and symptoms can manifest at approximately seven years of age.8

Wrapping Up

So, what can you do about your dog’s cloudy eyes? As a pet parent, it can be easy to dive headfirst into an endless tunnel of worry and online research. However, the most important thing to do is to remain calm and seek help from a professional veterinarian right away once you notice the changing appearance of your dog’s eyes. That said, many of the diseases causing cloudy eyes mentioned in this guide require ongoing treatment and regular monitoring by a veterinary professional.

We understand veterinarians can be busy and may not give your dog the attention or care they rightfully deserve during this crucial time. Fortunately, a Dutch-affiliated vet is ready to assist you and your dog with cloudy eyes caused by allergies or other health conditions. With Dutch telemedicine, you can find the best and most effective treatment plan for your pet at an affordable price.

References

  1. Haeussler, DJ, and Christina Korb. “Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca).” ACVO, American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, 22 May 2018, https://www.acvo.org/common-conditions-1/2018/2/2/dry-eye-keratoconjunctivitis-sicca.
  2. “Cataracts.” University of Missouri Veterinary Health Center, University of Missouri, 18 Oct. 2015, https://vhc.missouri.edu/ophthalmology/cataracts/.
  3. Meyers, Harriet. “Cloudy Eyes in Dogs.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 23 Sept. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/cloudy-eyes-in-dogs/.

  4. Black, Teresa. “Signs of Age-Related Change in the Eye.” ACVO, American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, 10 Aug. 2020, https://www.acvo.org/tips-treatments-tricks/signs-of-age-related-change-in-the-eye

  5. Haeussler, DJ, and Christina Korb. “Glaucoma.” ACVO, American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, 22 May 2018, https://www.acvo.org/common-conditions-1/2018/2/2/glaucoma.
  6. “Corneal Ulcers: More than Just a Scratch .” Corneal Ulcers: More than Just a Scratch | Oklahoma State University, OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, 2 May 2019, https://news.okstate.edu/articles/communications/2019/corneal_ulcers_more_than_just_a_scratch.html.
  7. “Uveitis.” Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Colorado State University, https://vetmedbiosci.colostate.edu/vth/services/ophthalmology/uveitis/.
  8. “Common Aging Changes.” Veterinary Vision Animal Eye Specialists, Veterinary Vision, https://www.sagecenters.com/veterinaryvision/resources/learn-about-eye-diseases/common-aging-changes/.