Cloudy eyes in dogs – 5 most common causes

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You must have come across older dogs with cloudy eyes, or ‘blue eyes’ as they are more commonly referred to.  My dog has cloudy eyes, for example.  But cloudy eyes in dogs are also present in dogs that are not so old.  And that is what prompted me to find out a little bit more.

My dog has cloudy eyes

Dog with cloudy eyes
It’s very difficult to take a picture of a dog’s eyes, but cloudy eyes but this is how cloudy eyes in dogs look like.

Cloudy eyes in dogs look very similar to the eye of a human, when it looks as if it had a veil over it to make it, well, ‘cloudy’ or foggy.  In dogs the eye with that veil over it often makes it look as if it had turned blue, or with a blue stain over it.  And it appears that this condition is more present in older dogs.  Is it something to worry about?  Yes and not.  Let me tell you why.

What causes cloudy eyes

Indy’s eyes have always been of an intense deep brown – very typical colour of eyes in a Border.  But for the last year his eyes have turned blue on the upper part.  It is not a massive stain, but it is there.

Quite inconsideratly we have not even mentioned this to our vet during the annual check up, or to the specialistic centre where we take Indy for his check up on cancer and for his six monthly melanoma booster.  But, prompted maybe by this post and by my little research, we had our vet Victoria check Indy’s eyes yesterday.  And guess what: Indy’s eyes are alright for now, but we will keep an eye (pardon the pun!) for cataracts regularly from now on, primarily due to his age.  So, good news so far.  Yay!

!! If you ever notice your dog’s eyes are starting getting cloudy, always consult a vet !!

Nevertheless, I wanted to find out more about this issue, particularly as I have seen cloudy eyes in some dogs, and wanted to learn more about it.

It appears that cloudy eyes in dogs are caused by five most common causes, which I am going to tell you more about here.


#1 Nuclear Sclerosis

Also referred to as Lenticular Sclerosis, this is a condition that is more typical in dogs over the age of six – but human and horses can develop it too.  The condition causes the pupils in your dog’s eyes to become gradually blue-grey.

This condition can slightly reduce the sight in your dog, but as it develops very gradually, it enables the dog to get used to a possible slight reduction in sight.


#2 Cataracts

The causes of cataracts in dogs are different, but the effects are similar to the ones encountered in humans.

Dog with cataracts
A dog’s eye affected by cataracts should look like this: like a grey veil over the eye.

Dogs can develop cataracts by inheritance, but cataracts can also be caused by diabetes, as side effect to prescribed drugs, as a secondary condition to another eye condition or due to trauma to the eye.  Changes in diet or nutritional deficiency can also cause cataracts.

Dogs are more likely to develop cataracts after the age of six.  When dogs get cataracts, this means that a cloud develops within the socket that holds the eye lens.

Cataracts can develop slowly over a period of time – in this case, your vet will periodically want to check your dog’s eyes to ensure they are progressing relatively slowly and without affecting your dog’s quality of life.  In such cases, often your vet will prescribe or suggest the use of anti-inflammatory eye drops.

But sometimes it has been found that cataracts develop within a space of weeks, or days.  In this case, sometimes your dog’s eye sight risks to get compromised, and surgery is required to prevent your dog to go blind.


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#3 Glaucoma

Glaucoma in the eye is caused by a build up of fluid at the back of the eye, which causes pressure in the eye.  In dogs the eye can become misshaped and can cause blindness.

In dogs, glaucoma can be primary or secondary.  When glaucoma is primary, this means your dog has inherited the condition, where it is likely that the condition will develop in both eye.  When however glaucoma is secondary, it is the result of other primary causes, such as cancer of the eye, advanced cataracts and other more serious conditions.

Like with humans, when a dog is found to have glaucoma, the first approach is to try and remove the build up of fluid which causes pressure at the back of the eye.  Whilst this process is most successful in humans, this is hardly the case in dogs – so much so that sometimes, in order for the condition not to affect your dog’s quality of life, the much dreaded and drastic decision is made to remove the affected eye altogether.


#4 Corneal Distrophy

Corneal distrophy is an inherited condition which luckily hardly causes loss of sight.  Unlike with the other conditions outlined so far, corneal distrophy is not painful.  Your dog will only develop corneal distrophy by inheritance, but can progress in to three different types.  Only stromal corneal distrophy causes your dog’s eye to take a blue cloud appearance, whereas the other two types wil affect the cells or the lining of the cornea in your dog’s eye.

Corneal distrophy hardly ever is treated, specifically as in most cases it does not cause loss of sight nor pain.  Sometimes dogs are prescribed contact lenses, and rarely surgery is required, but particularly with stromal corneal distrophy the cloudy looks of your dog’s eyes will remain the same.


#5 Anterior Uveitis

I must admit, I had never heard of of this condition, until I started searching for blue cloud eye causes.  But it appears that uveitis is the most severe of these five conditions.

Uveitis is a secondary condition to a pre-existing condition anywhere else in your dog’s body.  The nastiness of this condition is given primarily by the fact that it causes pain and discomfort.  That’s why you will notice that affected dogs start squinting or start scratching their eyes, or their eyes become red.  This condition can also cause discharge or excessive tears, or even swelling of the eye.

Eye drops for your dog
You don’t always need your vet’s help to put eye drops in your dog’s eyes.

The cause of anterior uveitis is an inflammation of the iris and of other parts of the eye.  However the good news is that, unlike with other conditions, anti-inflammatory eye drops and ointments can normally resolve the problem.  The treatment will be aggressive to prevent further damage of the eye, and very rarely it will require surgery.


Looking out for signs

Dogs are not as reliant on their sight as we humans are.  Their main radar for directions is their nose of course.  But good sight still plays an important role in your dog’s good quality of life, particularly when it comes to interaction with us humans.  Therefore it is important that we learn to look out for the signs that something may be not quite right with our dog’s eyes.  So, what to look out for?


When your dog presents sensitiveness to bright lights, or redness or discharge and tears from his or her eyes, this may be sign of the onset of infection.  And as mentioned before, a lot of the above conditions which cause the ‘blue cloud’ originate from a simple and straightforward untreated infection.


Check whether your dog’s eyelid grows inwards – this may lead to corneal distrophy, as it may rub against the cornea, causing irritation.

Dog with third eyelid
If you are squeamish, look away now!

All dogs have a third eyelid.  This hidden eyelid has a gland that prevents the secretion of tears.  However, sometimes this gland gets inflamed, swollen and exposed, causing a ‘prolapse’ eyelid.  In this case your dog’s eye will produce a yellow mucus which should alert to inflammation and infection.


How to take care of your dog’s eyes

There are simple measures which can help in ensuring your dog’s eyes remain healthy for many years.  As well as keeping an eye on signs of discomfort, as mentioned above, we dog owners can adopt maintenance routines with our dogs in the same way as we would do for our eyes.

Keep their hair short

Keep the hair around your dog’s eyes nicely trimmed.  Longer hair can irritate your dog’s eye, and we all know that dogs, unlike us, cannot push long hair away from their eyes.

Look into your dog’s eye

Look straight into your dog’s eyes in a well lit area.  This way you will almost certainly spot when a blue or grey cloud starts building up.

Clean your dog’s eyes

Keep your dog’s eyes clean, regularly removing crusts that may form on the inner corner of their eyes and using eye drops to wash foreign bodies out.  There are a lot of eye drops for dogs on the market – my personal recommendation goes with those drops made of natural ingredients.

Check the lining of their eyes

Regularly pull your dog’s lower lid down gently to ensure the lining is not red, but a healthy pink.  When the lining of the eye is red, this is sign of potential infection or a scratch.

Avoid shining strong lights into your dog’s eyes

Dog in sunglasses
Avoid shining strong light directly into your dog’s eyes.

How annoying is it when somebody takes a photo of us without warning that the flash might come out as the room is darker?  A flashed light in your dog’s eyes might be as fastidious for your dog as it is for you.  Avoid pointing strong lights directly into your dog’s eye.  Even if the light itself may not cause any harm, it might however cause your dog to start scratching the eye, hence possibly making it infected.

Avoid wind directly into your dog’s eyes

And finally, as much as your dog may show sign of loving sticking his or her head out of a moving car, this is a definite No-No for your your dog’s eyes.  Unlike us humans, a dog would not immediately detect foreign bodies lodging in his or her eyes.  Likewise, strong wind itself can cause irritation into your dog’s eye, which could eventually exacerbate further conditions.

If you see any of the above mentioned signs in your dog’s eyes, do not jump to the scariest of conclusions.  More often than not, your dog will not have anything that cannot be healed and solved by simple eye drops.  Nevertheless never disregard a change in your dog’s eyes, and always consult your vet.  As they say, better safe than sorrow.

And of course, if you have experienced any of the above conditions with your dog, please share these with us by leaving a comment below.




  1. // Reply

    Even as a guy I think I would’ve freaked out if anything of the such had happened to my dog Zeus’s eyes. No one wants their companions to suffer in any sort of way.

    Even after reading your article I still wonder if this issue occurs when there is something going on with the diet. You see it a lot of people in Ethiopia. They are often missing out on a simple nutrient that because of this cataracts are prevalent in that country.

    I do want to thank you for putting this article together. Now I know what to be on the look out for. Something as simple a discharge from the eyes could actually be something more severe. I typically just wipe the crud away from my pups eyes but now I’m going to be paying much more attention.

    1. // Reply

      The relation between food intake and dietary habits on one hand, and eye conditions on the other, Justin, is not a theory that I have ever come across before. Thank you for suggesting it though, as I shall definitely look into this. The example you bring about cases of malnutrition linked to higher levels of cataracts recorded in Ethiopia makes sense, and it definitely encourage me to look into this possibility when it concerns eye conditions in dogs. Thank you 🙂

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