Do You Need Glasses?

 
 
Paper Trained
by
Scott Sandeman, D.V.M.
 
Owners of senior pets are commonly concerned with their pet’s vision as they age.  Often, it is because they can see some change in their pet’s eyes that they may describe as a cloudiness or film over their eyes.  When changes are coupled with an age related decrease in mobility - i.e. difficulty or reluctance to get on the bed or in the car- many owners will fear that their pet is going blind.
What most observant owners are likely noticing is a condition of the eye known as lenticular sclerosis.  This blue-grey change to the lens is first noticeable at about 7 years of age with at least 50% of pets having this condition by the time they are 9 years old.  While they may resemble cataracts, they don’t cause deficiencies in vision and don’t require surgery or other therapies.
Cataracts can be a progressive disorder of the lens due to many different factors and processes.  A short list would include those cataracts that are inherited with breeds like the Boston terrier and poodle, those caused by trauma to the eye or head and cataracts that form because a pet is simultaneously affected by diabetes mellitus.  Pets with small or immature cataracts may have perfect vision but those with long standing or rapidly progressing can significant vision loss or be blind. Surgery to remove the cataracts may be an option.
To differentiate these conditions, your veterinarian will use an ophthalmoscope or hand held lens to look for special characteristic of the lens that separate the two.  This can often be done in the exam room although a more detailed examination may need to have the pupil dilated to fully visualize the lens and deeper structures of the eye.
While a thorough eye exam isn’t always possible at each stop at your veterinarian, do make sure the eyes are examined as your pet ages and especially if you notice any impairment.   A quick, simple look at the lens by your veterinarian may be all it takes to reassure you that any changes that you see in the eye are normal for their age.
 

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