If you notice a cloudy film covering the lens of your dog's eyes, what you're likely seeing is lenticular sclerosis, a common eye problem in dogs and cats. While many dogs develop lenticular sclerosis, some breeds are more prone.
Two common canine eye problems are lenticular sclerosis and senile cataracts, both of which create a haze over the lens. Lenticular (nuclear) sclerosis, a type of cataract, is a bluish film that usually develops in both lenses of middle-age or senior dogs; it does not affect vision dramatically. Senile cataracts, however, are a whitish, opaque film directly affecting a dog's retinas and vision. Most elderly dogs eventually develop one or both types of problems.
According to vet and behaviorist Dr. Ron Hines, some dogs get cataracts sooner than others. Among the larger breeds are cocker spaniels, German shepherds, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, Afghans, Chesapeake Bay retrievers, Old Eglish sheepdogs, huskies, and springer spaniels. Smaller dogs, such as Westies, poodles and schnauzers, get cataracts more frequently than other breeds. However, most dogs eventually get cataracts, especially the lenticular sclerosis type, as they age, starting at about age 6.
Although the cause is unknown, some dog breeds have inherited predisposition to cataract development, including lenticular sclerosis, at birth. According to Dr. Hines, typical breeds include fox terriers, bichon frises, cocker spaniels, Afghans, Boston terriers, standard poodles, miniature schnauzers, Westies and malamutes. Other contributing factors are eye injuries, eye inflammation, bad nutrition due to deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals, and diabetes due to uncontrolled high blood sugar.
Although you may think a dog with lenticular sclerosis is suffering, he's not. No treatment is necessary. Most dogs adapt well to the condition and lead normal lives, with fairly good vision. However, you should have a veterinarian examine your dog and then have the vet periodically monitor for development of senile cataracts, which can, but may not, develop later. If your dog does develop full-fledged cataracts, they can be surgically corrected.
Debra Levy has been writing for more than 30 years. She has had fiction and nonfiction published in various literary journals. Levy holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing/fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars.