Is My Old Dog Going Blind ?
by Bob Encinosa, DVM
As dogs age, their eyes can go through many changes, just as our own eyes do. Cataracts, glaucoma, dry eye (KCS), tumors and many other conditions are possible.
But, by far, the most common concern pet owners have about their senior dogs’ eyes, is the graying or cloudiness they see in the center of the eyes as they age. It is often assumed that this is a sign of cataracts. And while that is occasionally true, the vast majority of these cases are in fact something much more benign. If you are fortunate enough to have a dog reach their 11th or 12th year of life, they will inevitably experience a hazing or whitening of the lens of the eye known as nuclear or lenticular sclerosis. This is a normal aging change, and while it does reduce their visual acuity to some degree, it will not progress to complete blindness. In contrast, cataracts tend to progress rapidly and will almost always cause complete blindness eventually. Your veterinarian can quickly distinguish between these two conditions and guide you on how to proceed for the best outcome.
By the time a dog reaches the age of 14 or 15, lenticular sclerosis, along with other age related retinal and nerve conduction changes can significantly impair their vision. They often experience difficulties with depth perception and being able to see fine details of objects. As a result, they may begin to navigate their surroundings a little more cautiously or become reluctant to go up or down stairs, but since the changes develop so gradually over time, they generally adapt fairly well and continue to enjoy life.