The Window (Panes) to the Soul

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, the lenses are the window panes.  That is not as poetic, but it is true.

Where Exactly is the Lens?

If you look into your dog’s eyes, you are looking first through his cornea, the clear, firm, protective covering of the eye, then through the pupil.  Right behind the pupil is the lens.

What is the Lens?

The lens is larger than the pupil and shaped like those flat round glass beads made for aquariums.  It is the consistency of gummy candy.  Its job is to focus for near and far vision.  In health, the lens is completely clear.

Lenticular Nuclear Sclerosis

lenticular – of the lens

nuclear – middle

sclerosis – hardening

As dogs age, the lenses of their eyes age as well.  As the lens fibers becomed compressed, the lens takes on a grayish or bluish hue from the outside looking in.  The strange and very cool thing is, from the inside looking out, the view is still clear.  Your dog does not know his eyes are aging!  This condition, which can be a precursor to cataracts or an entirely different situation, is called lenticular nuclear sclerosis.

Lenticular nuclear sclerosis is often mistaken for cataracts.  Your veterinarian can examine your dog’s eyes and tell you which condition your pet has.  If your dog has lenticular nuclear sclerosis, take heart in knowing that though it makes your friend appear older, the condition does not interfere with vision and does not hurt a bit.

Cataracts

The most common causes of cataracts are aging (with a probable genetic predisposition) and diabetes.  There is a  juvenile form of cataracts,  and cataracts can be secondary to uveitis (inflammation of the front part of the eye) or secondary to trauma.  Cataracts, especially in the earliest stages, look very similar to lenticular nuclear sclerosis, and as mentioned, the two are often confused.

If your dog is diagnosed with cataracts, your veterinarian may recommend one or many next steps…

  • Diabetes Screen – Because diabetes is one of the most common causes of cataracts, have your pet screened (complete physical exam, urine testing and blood work).
  • Breeding Plan Revisions – Dogs with cataracts should not be bred, because many forms of cataracts are probably at least partially heritable.
  • Do not Despair – Canine cataracts are often surgically treatable.  If surgery is not an option, dogs with cataracts still tend to do very well, and adapt well to the partial or complete loss of vision.
  • Schedule a Consult with a Veterinary Ophthalmologist – In many cases, cataracts are surgically correctable by a veterinary ophthalmologist.  It would be worth a consult to explore this option.
  • Do Not Rearrange the Furniture – Cataracts are partially vision-impairing, and at the later stages can cause complete blindness.  Dogs tend to do GREAT with vision limitations.  Keep them safely enclosed and away from danger – stairs, pools, unrestricted outdoor areas, and help them relearn to navigate their surroundings.  Keeping their home as near to normal as is possible will help them greatly.

 
Learning to Age Gracefully by Spending Time with Our Dogs

Watching our canine friends grow older can be a bittersweet process.  Graying muzzles and clouding eyes are the two changes that are often the most disheartening.  Take heart in knowing that the grey only makes your dog more gorgeous, and the lens changes, whether they be sclerosis or cataracts, carry a very good prognosis.

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23 thoughts on “The Window (Panes) to the Soul

  1. We have had our senior dog’s eyes checked and all though cloudier they do not have cataracts….Thank you for this post!

  2. Yes it is bittersweet. Feeling the unbounding love and yet knowing that the time approaches when there will be separation. The graying and creakiness make it impossible to retain your illusion that you and your furbaby will have unlimited time together on this earth.

  3. I have a 16 yr old Jack Russel.Went blind when he was 3 & had cataract surgery done at that time. He had vision after the surgery till about 2 years ago and is now 100% blind. His health is perfect and he is alot of work now but so worth it. He gave me so much now its my turn to give back <3

  4. I had mine for 18Yrs old. She did not go blind, but when she was on the bed (which was not very far I would help up and down). She was my Angel.. 😉

  5. It is very sad. My Jack Russel is 13 and she is very grey and have the cloudy eyes. She is also getting a bit deaf. It saddens me to think our time together is getting short 🙁

  6. Hey Natasha.. my first Jack Russell was 17 when he passed. Enjoy EVERYDAY as best you can. Her best times are the ones she spends with you. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, as long as you are together. My latest JRT is
    another male, Dudley, who is a rescue also. I still try to make the most of every minute we have together. God Bless♥

  7. My 16 yr old chihuahua was just diagnosed with glaucoma and some cancerous lumps…becuase of her age the vet will do the surgeryto remove the lumps but said its extremely risky because of her age..Would you do the surgery and risk her life or let her live the rest of her life?

  8. This is so true! Trying to enjoy every day w/my babies & spoil them rotten, but can’t help but wonder how much longer we’ll be together : (

  9. I think because she is already 16 and the vet says it is extremely risky, if she was mine, not in pain and content within herself, I would let her continue as she is. It does rather depend on where the lumps are a bit, but anaesthesia is always a risk. Good luck it is always a tough call.

  10. I’ve just found out my springer puppy who is 9 months has hip displacia damn it hurts to see it happen she family she will be sorted out by hook or by crook

  11. My Chi is 13 years old and has had cataracts since we found her, 8 years ago. The Dr. at that time said the probabilities for her to see again with surgery were very slim, so we decided not to do it. She is a happy dog and she has no problem moving around the house. We love her dearly.

  12. @ Sonia – If she was mine, I would let her be. We did make this decision with our Sophie at one point in her old age…that if something did pop up, we would simply let it run its course, and keep her going as long as she was comfortable. At some point, medical intervention does more harm than good. Best wishes to your and your little pal.

  13. I hate having to make that final decision.. but I owe it to my babies to give them all I can.. and more.. all they give me.. it can not be repaid!

  14. I have a 16 y.o. cocker/beagle mix with CHF (going on 4 years with meds). Her hearing and eyesight are negligible, she sleeps a lot and paces a lot when she’s awake, but her spunk and appetite are great. I know she’ll let me know when she’s ready to go.

  15. I have a 8yr old toy fox terrier. I took him to the vet for his teeth cleaning and and bad teeth pulled. When he woke up from anesthesia he was blind. Vet say’s he never heard of this? Can anyone help with any ideas?

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