Corneal Dystrophy in Puppies
Round, whitish spots in your puppy's eyes could signify corneal dystrophy. This hereditary disorder might or might not eventually cause blindness, depending on whether the spots enlarge or stay relatively small, and on what layer of the cornea is affected.
Corneal dystrophy affects both of a dog's eyes but usually doesn't cause pain. However, it's possible that a corneal ulcer can eventually develop, causing discomfort. The white spots result from calcium or cholesterol deposits. Epithelial corneal dystrophy generally progresses slowly, affecting cell formation. Stromal corneal dystrophy causes cloudiness in the cornea. Both of these types of corneal dystrophy are inherited. Endothelial corneal dystrophy usually affects older dogs, causing corneal swelling and blister development in the eye. This type of corneal dystrophy results from corneal degeneration, not inheritance.
While corneal dystrophy is more common in older dogs, the condition appears in puppies in certain breeds, including Airedales, Shetland sheepdogs and Siberian huskies. In these breeds, onset can occur by the age of 6 months. Corneal dystrophy can appear in other breeds at a relatively young age, generally 1 year and up. These include beagles, cocker spaniels, Alaskan malamutes, dachshunds, Boston terriers, miniature schnauzers, Cavalier King Charles spaniels and the German shepherds. Dogs diagnosed with corneal ulcers should not be bred.
In addition to examining your puppy's eyes, your vet will also take blood and urine for testing to rule out other possible illnesses. She'll measure the pressure in the eyes to rule out glaucoma. If corneal ulcers develop, your puppy might experience excessive tearing or start squinting and pawing at the eye. Your vet administers a dye test to determine whether ulceration exists.
The opacity, the actual whitish spot, can't be removed. However, if the puppy also develops "tags" growing out of the cornea -- cholesterol or calcium deposits -- they can be removed surgically if necessary. Most dogs diagnosed with stromal corneal dystrophy don't require treatment. If corneal ulcers develop, your vet can prescribe topical eye medication for healing. Your puppy might need to wear an Elizabethan collar -- the notorious "cone of shame" -- to keep him from rubbing the eye. In cases of severe ulceration, surgery might be necessary.
By Jane Meggitt
About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.