Eye health is extremely important as we rely on our sight for so much. As we age it is a regular occurrence for our eyesight to deteriorate, and it is the same for our pets. Some diseases such as nuclear sclerosis are unavoidable and untreatable, but others such as eye infections can be treated before they leave permanent damage. Therefore, any pet suffering from an eye related concern should be seen by a vet sooner rather than later. So, what is nuclear sclerosis? The lens of the eye is composed of tissue fibres that fit together in line, but as the animal ages, more fibres are produced and the lens becomes over-crowded with no room to expand, therefore the fibres become more compact especially in the centre, causing a ‘hardening’ of the lens. This is called Nuclear Sclerosis and can be noticed by a bluish tinge developing in the animal’s eye, especially when the pupil is dilated. It is a slow progression and the affected animal naturally adjusts over time to the gradual changes in their eyesight. It is estimated that over 50% of dogs over the age of nine have some form of nuclear sclerosis. A cataract can pose more of a serious problem. There are many reasons as to why a cataract may form in a dog’s eye, ranging from diabetes, genetic issues such as breed or even trauma. Once it is starting to develop there is no way to stop the cataract from progressing.
The only alternative is surgery. The best way to diagnose if a cataract is forming is by using an ophthalmoscope to examine the eye. This allows the vet to see through the cornea and lens to the retina behind. If the eye is developing a cataract, they will not be able to see through the lens. If the vet can’t see through, the animal can’t either. Dogs can however adapt very well to cataracts, especially if they only affect one eye, causing some owners to not realise something is wrong until the cataract appears more severely, causing a grey or white cloud over the lens of the eye. Cataracts cause a blocking of the light, making things difficult to see, like looking through a frosted surface in the case of early developing cataracts. Surgery is often referred to a ‘quality of life’ surgery rather than life saving surgery. It is best to discuss with your vet the repercussions of cataracts in your pet and the options going forward. There are many other eye issues that can occur in your pet from cherry eye to corneal ulcers. If you notice any unusual signs in your pets’ eye such as excess weeping, redness, yellow or discoloured discharge or swelling you should seek veterinary attention straight away.