Nuclear Sclerosis In Dogs – What Does It Mean For Your Pet

What Is Cataract In Dogs?

Cataracts are caused by excessive accumulation of crystals inside the lens of your eyes. These crystals cause damage to the retina (the light sensitive tissue at the back of your eye) causing blindness if not treated immediately. The most common causes include:

• UV radiation from sunlight or sunbeds

• High altitude exposure to ultraviolet rays from the Sun or other sources such as tanning beds, tanning booths, etc.

• Chronic inflammation of the eye due to diabetes, glaucoma, allergies, cancer treatments and certain medications

In addition to these causes there are other possible causes including:

• Genetic mutations which affect how crystals grow inside the lens. Some genetic mutation may lead to no crystal growth or only small ones. Other genetic mutation may result in very large crystals growing inside the lens causing permanent vision loss.

• A tumor or growth in the eye.

How Do Cats Get Cataracts?

The main risk factors for developing cataracts are: • Smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and hookahs. • Exposure to high levels of airborne pollutants such as carbon monoxide and smoke from fireplaces. • Excessive use of alcohol and drugs. • Inherited gene defects which affect how crystals grow inside the lens.

The main causes of cataracts in dogs are:

Older age. Between the age of 11 and 12 years old, most dogs begin to develop yellowish clouding of the lens. This is called nuclear sclerosis and affects the center part of the lens.

Nuclear Sclerosis In Dogs – What Does It Mean For Your Pet - Picture

It does not cause vision loss and usually does not require treatment. However, as dogs get older, they increase their risk for other types of lens changes that can lead to vision loss.

Dogs at an increased risk for cataracts include those that are:

• Extremely active in demanding jobs such as Search and Rescueworking outside, herding, or agility competitions, or other occupations that expose dogs to sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet (UV) light. • Exposed to high levels of airborne pollutants such as those experienced by service and search-and-rescue dogs working at Ground Zero after the attacks on the World Trade Center.

How is Cataract in Dogs Diagnosed?

Cataracts are diagnosed during a thorough examination of the eye and by its characteristic appearance seen during an eye examination. Your veterinarian may also notice changes in your dog’s behavior that may indicate vision loss or changes in the eye such as a milky/cloudy appearance to the lens or pupil.

Symptoms of Cataracts

Your dog may show these symptoms if he has vision loss, but many dogs adjust without showing obvious signs. Vision loss is more likely to be a problem if your dog was previously very active or works in an occupation that demands good vision (herding, search and rescue, police work, agility, etc). If your dog experiences a change in their vision or behavior you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away.

Signs of vision loss may include one or more of the following:

• Not approaching people or other dogs as often. This may be because they can’t see them coming, they don’t recognize them, or they are uncomfortable with the way they are moving (shadows,etc).

This also may be a problem with depth perception so your dog may have trouble getting around obstacles.

Your dog may have trouble recognizing toys, furniture, and other objects.

Your dog may experience changes in lighting (such as coming in from bright sunlight to a dark house) more severely. This can be very stressful or even painful to your dog.

Your dog may bump into objects, have a tendency to slip or trip, and have a general unsteadiness while walking or moving around.

What are the Different Types of Cataracts?

Cataract is a condition where the lens inside the eye becomes cloudy compromising vision. The type and progression of the cataract determines the treatment.

Cloudy Lens:

The lens inside the eye is made of mostly water and protein. As dogs age this protein turns to a milky substance that clouds the lens. This condition is not painful or damaging, but it can cause vision loss.

Nuclear Sclerosis In Dogs – What Does It Mean For Your Pet - Picture

Nuclear Sclerosis:

This condition causes a yellowish pigment in the center of the lens. It usually causes no problems with vision or behavior.

Posterior Capsular Opacification:

The most common type of cataract, this cloudiness occurs inside the capsule that holds the lens in place. As the lens begins to cloud over vision loss will occur.

How are Cataracts Treated?

There is no treatment or cure for cataracts but there are ways to manage them and help with vision. Surgery can be performed to replace the lens with an artificial one. Your veterinarian can explain the risks and benefits of surgery and help you decide if your dog is a good candidate.

Living and Managing Cataracts

If your dog has been diagnosed with cataracts there are some things that you can do to make sure that he or she can experience a good quality of life.

Animals with cataracts should not go outside unsupervised as they may bump into things or slip and fall causing additional injury.

Your dog may experience some vision loss, but this may actually make him or her more comfortable because they may not be able to see as well.

Cataracts do not progress rapidly, so it is important to keep your dog’s weight down to decrease the risk of additional injury from falls or accidents.

Nuclear Sclerosis In Dogs – What Does It Mean For Your Pet - Picture

Decreasing activity and providing a calm environment can help your dog feel more comfortable. If you notice any additional pain or unusual behavior, you should contact your veterinarian right away.

Older pets, especially those that may be experiencing other medical issues, should have a thorough examination by your veterinarian before surgery to reduce the risk of complications.

By understanding the condition of your pet’s eyes and making some accommodations you can both enjoy many more happy years together.


Arthritis literally means “joint inflammation” and is typically used to describe diseases which cause pain and decreased movement in the joints. Arthritis can occur in any joint but is most common in the larger weight bearing joints such as the hips and elbows.

Two of the most common types of arthritis in dogs are Osteoarthritis and Inflammatory arthritis. Both of these diseases have many different causes and are treated differently, however they both can cause a great deal of pain and lead to decreased quality of life for your pet.


This “degenerative” arthritis usually occurs in middle aged to older dogs. The cause is unknown but genetics and obesity are thought to play a role. As the name implies this disease affects the cartilage throughout the joints resulting in pain and swelling.

This cartilage acts as a “cushion” between the bones and helps move easily. When this cushion becomes damaged bones begin to rub against each other causing pain and eventually the formation of bone spurs around the joints.

Osteoarthritis is seen most commonly in large and giant breed dogs, however any breed is susceptible.


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As the name implies, pain and decreased movement are the main symptoms of Osteoarthritis. As the disease progresses your dog may reluctant to move and become increasingly lethargic as joint pain becomes more severe. Although they will be in pain, extended rest does not help and in fact makes the condition worse.

Some dogs will start to “self-mutilate” by licking and chewing at their joints. This causes an even higher level of pain and can result in skin ulcers or sores.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition with no known cure, however it can be managed by controlling pain and other symptoms.


Weight loss: Obesity is a big risk factor for Osteoarthritis and can contribute to the condition and make it worse. Maintaining your dog’s ideal body weight can help to decrease pain and improve quality of life.

Exercise: It may sound counterintuitive, but regular exercise can actually help to slow the progression of Osteoarthritis. Although the joint pain may be a deterrent, gentle exercises, such as short walks can actually decrease pain and improve quality of life.

Careful washing and drying of the inflamed areas should then follow to remove any dirt, debris or additional irritation.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin: These are natural substances found in the body and have been shown to assist with joint health. It is recommended that these supplements be given daily for arthritis, once the diagnosis has been confirmed with your veterinarian.

Glucosamine works by helping to rebuild damaged cartilage, while chrondroitin helps maintain the cushioning effect of cartilage and also prevents blood from coagulating within a joint. These supplements are available over the counter in most pet stores and it is important that the correct dose be given based on your dog’s weight. In addition, these should always be given under the guidance of your veterinarian to ensure that there are no allergies or negative drug interactions.

Glucosamine/Chrondroitin has been reported to have positive effects on dogs with arthritis. Most dogs seem to benefit from these supplements; however, some may not notice a difference. If your dog does not seem to benefit, try changing brands or stop giving the supplements altogether.

These supplements can be used in addition to prescription medications. If your veterinarian has already prescribed medication for your dog, you should continue administering that rather than substituting the supplements alone.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin has also been shown to be beneficial for hip dysplasia and tendinitis.

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Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These are natural anti-inflammatory oils and can be beneficial in the treatment of arthritis. They work as well or better than the traditional NSAID medications such as Rimadyl and Etogesic. They can be found in most pet stores as well as online.

Your veterinarian may also be able to prescribe these as a topical treatment or even inject them directly into your dog’s joints for faster relief.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are safe and have fewer side effects than traditional pharmaceutical treatments, but they do have their downsides. Your dog’s skin can become more itchy as a result of the Omega-3s and this may cause your dog to scratch excessively,sometimes resulting in bald spots.

Sources & references used in this article:

The effect of a topical antioxidant formulation including N‐acetyl carnosine on canine cataract: a preliminary study by DL Williams, P Munday – Veterinary ophthalmology, 2006 – Wiley Online Library

Prevalence of canine cataract: preliminary results of a cross‐sectional study by DL Williams, MF Heath, C Wallis – Veterinary ophthalmology, 2004 – Wiley Online Library

Ocular disease in the guinea pig (Cavia porcellus): a survey of 1000 animals by D Williams, A Sullivan – Veterinary Ophthalmology, 2010 – Wiley Online Library

Common physical and functional changes associated with aging in dogs by …, L Daristotle, DK Ingram, A Lepine… – Journal of the …, 2015 – Am Vet Med Assoc

Geriatric screening in first opinion practice–results from 45 dogs by M Davies – Journal of Small Animal Practice, 2012 – Wiley Online Library

Aging dogs manifest myopia as measured by autorefractor by J Hernandez, C Moore, X Si, S Richer, J Jackson… – PloS one, 2016 –

Prevalence of feline cataract: results of a cross‐sectional study of 2000 normal animals, 50 cats with diabetes and one hundred cats following dehydrational crises by DL Williams, M Fred Heath – Veterinary ophthalmology, 2006 – Wiley Online Library

Estimating age in dogs and cats using ocular lens examination by G Tobias, TA Tobias, SK Abood – … ON CONTINUING EDUCATION …, 2000 –