Pets are amazing communicators, especially given that they cannot speak. We know exactly what they are thinking when they look at us with their wide, adoring eyes, or when those eyes are staring a hole through the cookie jar in anticipation of a treat. Seeing that your pet’s eyes are cloudy or hazy can be scary, especially if they are in pain or unable to navigate their home normally. Multiple conditions can cause a white or blue haze in your pet’s eyes. Fortunately, your Mill Creek Animal Hospital veterinary team has a wealth of knowledge and tools to diagnose and treat any such changes. The following six common medical conditions, some painful if left untreated, are known to cause pets’ eyes to appear cloudy.  

#1: Cataracts in pets decrease vision

Cataracts are a condition of the eye’s lens, which functions to help your pet focus light, similar to a camera lens. When a cataract causes opaqueness in your pet’s eye, light can no longer reach the retina, decreasing the ability to see. Occasionally, only a portion of the lens is affected, allowing partial vision. Cataracts are primarily an inherited condition, with some breeds at greater risk, although other medical conditions can cause cataracts, including diabetes, malnutrition, trauma, radiation therapy, and inflammation. A thorough veterinary exam is required to diagnose a cataract. Unfortunately, no topical or oral medications can reverse or slow cataract development, and only surgical lens replacement will restore the pet’s vision.

#2: Lenticular nuclear sclerosis in pets affects perception and focus

If your pet could read, they would likely need reading glasses after a lenticular sclerosis diagnosis. Lenticular sclerosis is a common age-related change in senior pets caused when the eye’s lens hardens. While not painful, the condition affects your pet’s depth perception and ability to focus, and rarely, their overall vision. Your pet may also be hesitant to go up stairs, or is less likely to catch their favorite ball or frisbee. Unfortunately, lenticular sclerosis has no treatment. 

#3: Glaucoma in pets—a medical emergency

Glaucoma is a painful medical condition caused by a buildup of fluid, or aqueous humor, in the eye that results in increased intraocular pressure (IOP). Glaucoma can occur suddenly, and is typically a result of improper fluid drainage in and from the eye. Glaucoma is considered a medical emergency, because permanent damage and vision loss can result without treatment. Common clinical signs include:

  • Blood-shot or red eyes
  • Bulging eyes
  • Cloudy or opaque cornea
  • Squinting 
  • Dilated pupils
  • Pawing at the eyes or face
  • Tearing 
  • Lethargy or decreased appetite

Glaucoma can be primary or secondary. Primary glaucoma is an inherited condition that eventually will affect both eyes and occurs in mostly purebred dogs, including cocker spaniels, Great Danes, Jack Russell terriers, chow chows, basset hounds, Siberian huskies, and Shar-peis. Secondary glaucoma is a side effect of another underlying disease, such as cataracts, lens luxation, ocular cancer, chronic inflammation, or retinal detachment. Your Mill Creek veterinarian can diagnose glaucoma by performing an eye exam that includes measuring your pet’s IOP with a tonometer. Glaucoma has no cure, but can sometimes be managed with multiple medications and surgery.

#4: Dry eye in pets—a lifelong condition

Dry eye, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), occurs mostly in dogs when tear production or tear quality is reduced. Tears are essential for eye lubrication and health, and are important to remove bacteria or other debris from the eye. Chronic dry eyes can also lead to corneal ulcers or scarring, resulting in a cloudy, dull appearance of the eye. Other clinical signs include:

  • Mucoid ocular discharge
  • Red eyes
  • Swelling around the eye
  • Squinting or excess blinking 

Dry eye is typically an immune system disorder, but less common causes include: 

  • Viral infections
  • Drug toxicity
  • Infectious disease (e.g., canine distemper virus)
  • Prolapsed third eyelid (i.e., cherry eye)
  • Genetic disorder (e.g., small or absent tear ducts)

To diagnose dry eye, a Schirmer Tear Test is used to measure your pet’s tear production. Pets diagnosed with dry eye will need lifelong eye medication. 

#5: Corneal ulcers, usually caused by trauma in pets

A corneal ulcer is caused when the surface membrane of the eye or cornea is damaged from  trauma, and your pet’s injured eye may appear hazy or cloudy. Corneal ulcers can also be caused by medical or environmental conditions, bacterial or viral infections, dry eye, abnormally placed eyelashes or hairs, and neurologic and endocrine disorders. Clinical signs include:

  • Squinting
  • Tearing
  • Redness around the eye
  • Clouding at the surface
  • Ocular discharge

A fluorescein stain of the eye is used to diagnose this painful condition. Treatment includes medication to stop infection and alleviate pain. 

#6: Uveitis in pets—a painful inflammation

Uveitis is a painful condition that occurs when the eye’s pigmented tissues become inflamed. Clinical signs include changes in the pupil or iris, cloudiness, redness, and squinting. Many conditions can cause uveitis, including:

  • Infectious diseases
  • Trauma
  • Cataracts
  • Immune system disorders
  • Eye cancer

In addition to a full physical exam, your veterinarian may recommend various laboratory tests to determine and treat the underlying cause of uveitis. They will also give medication for pain relief. 

Our Mill Creek Animal Hospital team is here to answer all your questions concerning your pet’s eye health. If your furry friend’s eyes look cloudy or different, or if they are having trouble catching their favorite toy, call our office to schedule an appointment.