Eye Issues in Senior Pets

posted: by: Dawn, RVT Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Many people experience changes in eyesight as they age.  These can be natural aging changes or due to illness or disease of the eye.  Pets can experience similar eyesight problems as they age.


Lenticular Sclerosis is a natural aging of the lens of the eye.  The lens appears cloudy or hazy, and pet owners often confuse the cloudiness with cataracts.  Lenticular sclerosis affects near sighted vision, so if your pet was a human, he or she would need reading glasses.  The cloudiness of the lens can make it a little harder to see in dim light, so your dog may appreciate a porch light for night time potty trips.


Cataracts are common in older pets, and also in pets with Diabetes.  When a pet has a cataract, the lens becomes opaque or appears milky.  Cataracts impair vision and can lead to blindness.  Cataracts can be surgically removed by an ophthalmologist, however most pets with cataracts are older or suffering from another illness and are not likely candidates for surgery.  Pets can live with cataracts or even with blindness as they acclimate to their environment and rely on their other senses to get around.


Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS), also known as Dry Eye, is a condition where the eyes do not produce enough tears and the cornea becomes dry.  You may see a mucousy discharge from the eyes, and this condition is uncomfortable so your pet may rub its face or paw at the eyes.  Dry eye can cause eye infections, ulcers, and even blindness.  KCS is diagnosed with a tear test, where special strips are tucked under the eye lid for 60 seconds to measure tear production.  Treatment consists of a special eye ointment twice daily for life.  While any breed may have this problem, KCS is commonly seen in small, long hair dogs such as Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, Pekingnese, Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels, and long haired terrier breeds.


Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in pets.  In a healthy eye, there is fluid inside the eye that naturally drains.  In an eye with glaucoma, the fluid does not drain but builds up in the eye, causing the pressure inside the eye to increase.  This increased pressure damages the retina and optic nerve.  Common breeds predisposed to Glaucoma include Beagles, Bassett Hounds, Schnauzers, Poodles, Chihuahuas, Spaniels and Dachshunds. (This is not a complete list)  Glaucoma could also be caused by an eye injury or disease.  Symptoms include squinting the eye, dilated pupil, red/bloodshot eye, corneal cloudiness, pain or pawing at eye, and vision loss.  Glaucoma is diagnosed by taking eye pressures with a special instrument called a Tonopen.  This does not hurt the pet.  Drops are put in the eyes that numb the eye prior to obtaining the eye pressure.  Treatment includes eye drops to help increase the fluid drainage from the eye, which will lower the eye pressure.  Surgical removal of the eye is an option in some, but not all, patients with glaucoma.


Suburban Animal Clinic recommends that all senior pets and breeds that are predisposed for Glaucoma be screened regularly.  As with other diseases common to aging pets, routine screening and early detection of glaucoma allows for better management and a better quality of life for your pet.  Suburban Animal Clinic is offering a $5 Glaucoma screen (normally $15) to our senior patients in October & November.  Schedule your senior pet for this important screen today!