Mark your calendars for Wednesday, May 17 for the next “Third Thursday” pet owner seminar at Clevengers Corner Veterinary Care. That’s right, the presentation will be on a WEDNESDAY this time. Due to the commencement of Culpeper Renaissance’s “Third Thursday” summer concert series on May 18, we decided to move our event a day early.

This month’s topic will be my presentation on “Choosing a Pet Food: Science vs. Myth.” It has proven to be one of our most popular seminars in the past. The only thing changing is the day of the week. The seminar will still begin at 7 p.m., is still free and open to the public and there will still be refreshments served. Please see for more information.

Q: My nine year old pug’s eyes have begun to look cloudy. Could he have cataracts? Can they be treated?

A: Dogs do get cataracts, but there are several more common conditions that may cause cloudiness to an older dog’s eyes. Perhaps seen most frequently is lens hardening, also called lenticular sclerosis. Considered a “normal” aging change, a dog’s pupil begins to take on a blue or grey appearance. A dog can see through a hard lens, but may have difficulty focusing. Sometimes this inability to focus makes stairs more difficult or keeps squirrel chasers from detecting their adversaries. Otherwise, the condition is harmless.

Some types of dogs, including pugs, have a predisposition for dry eye, also called KCS. These dogs lose the ability to produce enough watery tears. As the disease progresses, the clear outer portion of the eye, called the cornea, may begin to cloud and some mucus may begin to appear periodically. In later stages, the cornea may be damaged leading to painful ulcers or blindness.

True cataracts may occur for several reasons. Some birth defects in the eye lead to cataracts at a young age. More commonly, genetics cause cataracts as a dog ages. Sometimes cataracts are a sign of an underlying metabolic disease like diabetes. Other times they can be the cause of secondary problems including glaucoma. Cataracts sometimes remain as small specks on a dog’s lenses. Sometimes they progress to consume the entire lens and lead to blindness. Occasionally, they will rupture or tear the lens away from its attachments, causing serious and painful eye damage.

When you notice cloudiness in your dog’s eye, you should make an appointment to see a veterinarian. The doctor will examine the eye thoroughly, including tear testing, glaucoma screening, and cornea staining.

It may also be advisable to test for related metabolic diseases. Some cloudiness, like lens hardening, will not need to be treated. Other conditions, like glaucoma or diabetes, will need prompt attention.

If the diagnosis is uncomplicated mature cataracts in an otherwise healthy dog, you must decide whether to have them removed or not. Many people choose to accept blindness in their pet and decline to treat the cataracts. If this is your decision, your veterinarian will want to examine your pet’s eyes every three to four months to guard against secondary conditions. If you decide to have the cataracts removed, a veterinary ophthalmologist will evaluate your dog’s retinal function before the procedure. If the back of the eye functions normally, a short surgery is performed to remove the cataract tissue.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association and Virginia Veterinary Medical Association all publish guidelines recommending wellness examinations twice a year for all dogs over seven years of age. Special attention should be paid to these older pets’ eyes during the examinations. Susceptible breeds should be screened for dry eye, glaucoma, and cataracts.

In addition, biannual laboratory tests may help detect metabolic problems early enough to prevent cataracts from ever forming.

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Dr. Watts is a companion animal general practitioner and owner of Clevengers Corner Veterinary Care. He can be reached at 540/428-1000.

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