Nuclear sclerosis in dogs is part of the normal canine aging process. Most pet owners observe it as a bluish-gray cloudiness in the center of their dog’s eyes, most noticeably when the pupil is dilated. It is not unusual in canines over 6 years of age and it develops bilaterally, that is, in both eyes at the same time. The good news is that nuclear sclerosis in dogs (also known as lenticular sclerosis) is not painful for your precious pet, nor does it significantly impact her vision.Face of an Older White Shih Tzu with Nuclear Sclerosis

Not to be Confused with Cataracts

When many pet parents first start to notice this haziness in their dog’s eyes, they may mistakenly jump to the conclusion that their dog is developing cataracts. While it’s true that nuclear sclerosis and cataracts are two of the most common eye problems seen in older dogs, the two conditions are very different, both in what causes them and in the effect they have on the animal’s vision.

Cataracts are a much more serious eye disorder, and though they are fairly common in senior pets, nuclear sclerosis is even more prevalent.

Nuclear sclerosis develops gradually and is considered a normal change to the lenses of an aging dog’s eyes. The opaque gray-blue color of the pupils develops slowly and simultaneously in both eyes, and does not markedly affect the animal’s vision. Occasionally, a pet may have mild problems with depth perception, but the onset of nuclear sclerosis is so gradual that the dog is able to adapt very well to any minor changes.

It can be a bit unsettling to see this cloudiness beginning to occur in your older pet’s eyes, especially when she used to look at you with such a sharp and sparkling gaze, but be assured that the condition is not causing her any discomfort. It is always recommended that you make an appointment with your veterinarian when you notice any changes in the appearance of your dog’s eyes so that you can get a professional diagnosis.

The Veterinary Ophthalmic Exam

A veterinary ophthalmic exam is a thorough examination of your pet’s eyes. It can be done by your vet or by a veterinary ophthalmologist (animal eye care specialist). Most vets perform a routine eye exam whenever a pet is brought in for any reason; But if the animal is brought in specifically for an eye problem, more extensive tests may be performed for a complete evaluation.

With an ophthalmic exam, your veterinarian should easily be able to tell the difference between nuclear sclerosis and a more serious condition. Some eye disorders such as cataracts, corneal ulcers, or glaucoma, are extremely painful for your pet and could result in vision loss; So it’s always best to get a veterinarian’s positive diagnosis of nuclear sclerosis and rule out other more potentially dangerous eye disorders.

What Causes Nuclear Sclerosis in Dogs?

We’ve already established that nuclear sclerosis in dogs happens with the normal aging process; But do we really understand the physical mechanisms that take place in a the canine eyeball while this condition is coming about?Closeup of a Dog's Brown Eye

Not Clearly. {Pun intended? Not really.}

But it seems that the canine lens actually gets hardened with age. Lenses are made of fibers and these fibers are arranged in a very orderly fashion through which light can travel. As the animal ages, new fibers form around the edges of the lens, pushing the older fibers toward the center. Since the size of the lens does not increase with age, the central lens becomes compressed.

This compression causes the lens to cloud-over, harden, and scatter light. This results in that opaque bluish gray cloud that pet owners see in their dog’s eyes. (Although this doesn’t seem to bother her much, and you can still see the happy love in her eyes despite the haziness.)

Is There a Treatment for Nuclear Sclerosis in Dogs?

More good news is that there is no particular treatment for nuclear sclerosis in dogs because none is necessary. There is also no way to prevent it from happening. However, it is important to get your dog’s eyes checked regularly by your veterinarian (at least once a year). I mentioned earlier that nuclear sclerosis and cataracts are the two most common eye conditions seen in senior dogs. As your dog gets older, it’s possible that she may develop cataracts, although there is no known causal relationship between the two.

If cataracts should occur in your old girl, they can be surgically removed and vision restoration is very successful, especially if it’s done in the early stages of cataract development. However, your veterinarian will have to determine if your dog is a good candidate for cataract surgery.

One more word about cataracts: There are now cutting-edge eye drop solutions available for pets to shrink cataracts. The drops contain two “cataract-fighting ingredients”, lanosterol and n-acetylcarnosine. This is of course, a non-invasive and much less expensive approach to treating cataracts in dogs.

Summarizing the Key Points

1.) Nuclear sclerosis in dogs is a normal part of the aging process. It usually develops in dogs six years of age and older. It appears as a bluish gray cloudiness in the center of both of your dog’s eyes. The condition is not painful for your dog and does not significantly impair her vision.

2.) Many pet parents mistake nuclear sclerosis for developing cataracts in their dog’s eyes. Your veterinarian will be able to make a diagnosis with an ophthalmic exam.

3.) Nuclear sclerosis in dogs is caused by a compression of the older lens fibers in the center of the lens due to new fiber formation around the edges. The increased density causes the lens to get hazy and scatter light.

4.) There is no way to prevent nuclear sclerosis in your dog, nor is any treatment necessary. But it is a sign that your old girl is getting up in years, so be sure to adjust her activities to her aging canine body.

5.) Be sure to keep up with regular veterinary check-ups which should always include an eye exam.Back View of a Man and Woman on a Park Bench with a Dog at Their Feet

I hope you have enjoyed reading and learning about nuclear sclerosis in dogs. I invite you to leave any comments or questions you may have on the subject in the comment section below. Thanks for visiting My Geriatric Dog!