Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
What Does a Cholesterol Deposit Look Like?
Cholesterol deposits in a dog's eye appear as opaque, grayish-white spots that are round or oval in shape. These spots are caused by an accumulation of lipid (fat) on the dog's cornea. As the name implies, the lipid consists of crystals of cholesterol and its associated chemical compounds. For this reason, the condition is also referred to as corneal lipidosis or lipid keratopathy.
Why do certain dogs get these spots while others don't? This is a very good question, but it appears that the answer is still not 100% known. The following are some possible causes of cholesterol deposits in your dog's eye.
Causes of Cholesterol Deposits
There are chances that dogs may develop cloudy cholesterol deposits in the middle of the eye as a result of an inherited condition known as corneal dystrophy. In particular, breeds affected are the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Siberian Husky, Shetland Sheepdog, Collie, and Beagle, but there are many more breeds predisposed. In several cases, one eye develops the deposit but eventually the other eye will also be affected after some time. Dogs affected by this condition shouldn't be bred, as this heritable condition may be passed on.
Inflammation of the Eye
A secondary inflammatory eye condition (keratitis, pannus, corneal trauma, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, anterior uveitis) is another possible cause as the corneal degenerative process can include deposition of cholesterol, according to Northwest Animal Eye Specialists. Usually the deposit is present only in one eye and there are signs of inflammation. Corneal degeneration is often seen in senior dogs over the age of 10 and is a common cause of age-related lipid deposits, according to Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Center.
There's belief that some affected dogs may not metabolize lipids correctly. As such, the extra lipids tend to settle in the dog's cornea. In this case we may be dealing with a systemic condition such as high lipid levels (high cholesterol, high triglycerides may be a culprit). In some cases, affected dogs may have low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism) since hypothyroidism decreases the levels of the enzyme lipoprotein lipase (LPL), which is responsible for dissolving lipids according to PetMD.
Other possible conditions that could cause cholesterol deposits include Cushing's Disease, diabetes, pancreatitis, and inherited conditions affecting lipid metabolism as seen in, Miniature Schnauzers. Affected dogs should have their serum cholesterol, triglycerides and thyroid hormones checked out. When the underlying condition is systemic, the spot is often seen in both eyes, even though initially it may affect only one eye.
And then you have those cases where a real cause cannot be found, and that's when the vet will use the term idiopathic. This term often frustrates dog owners because they want a clear diagnosis and cause so they can initiate a targeted treatment.
*For more on this condition, read the article by eye specialist, Rhea V. Morgan.
Treating Cholesterol Deposits in a Dog's Eyes
While cholesterol deposits appear worrisome, the good news is that once they reach a certain size, they tend to stop from progressing and they seldom affect a dog's vision. For this reason, vets don't typically recommend surgical removal. However, it's important to find the underlying cause, if possible, as the eyes are the windows of your dog's health.
The Treatment Depends on the Underlying Cause
Finding the underlying cause for the cholesterol deposits is key as treatment is based on these findings.
Elevated lipids? In the case that elevated levels of lipids are found, diets offering low-fat foods can help prevent the lesion from worsening.
Low thyroid? In the case of low thyroid levels, thyroxine can help correct the thyroid levels and subsequent high cholesterol.
Inflammation? If there is an underlying inflammation of the eye, topical products may be prescribed.
But without a proper diagnosis, there may be chances that the underlying cause will cause the eyes to worsen, then vision may be affected and your dog may develop other symptoms over time. In some cases, a corneal ulcer may appear at the cholesterol deposit site. Symptoms suggestive of a corneal ulcer include redness, squinting, tearing and or rubbing at the eye.
Is Surgery Necessary?
While surgery may appear like a good idea to remove the unsightly spots, in reality it would be futile since the lesions tend to recur. There are times though where surgery (superficial keratectomy) may be indicated. This may be the case in the inherited form affecting Shetland sheepdogs, which can cause painful episodes, according to Northwest Animal Eye Specialists.
As seen, there are several potential causes for those cholesterol deposits. If your dog has developed a suspicious spot on his eye, there can be several causes, so make sure to have it checked out. Your vet may refer you to a veterinary specialist specializing in ophthalmology for proper diagnosis.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do cholesterol deposits in a dog's eye go away if treated?
Answer: With deposits on the inside of a dog's cornea from lipid or minerals, there, unfortunately, isn't anything to remove those deposits. In other words, no specific therapy is available. If they were to be removed, they would likely come back and sometimes they may be worse than before. Please make sure this is what your dog has by seeing your vet and obtaining a diagnosis, as there can be other causes for the formation of lesions in a dog's eye.
© 2015 Adrienne Farricelli
Dot on February 28, 2020:
My dog has a thin,pure white circle on his eye, im scared can u tell me if its the same condition??? Or maybe more dangerous??? Pls tell me
emberandjake on November 18, 2019:
I just noticed these in my dog's eyes. He has one slightly cloudy oval spot on the cornea of each eye. They are almost identical making me suspect it wasn't an injury or infection. Reading this article helps a lot. He was just diagnosed with hypothyroidism in February and is on medication. I also recently switched him to a less expensive but fattier dog food. I think both of these factors must account for his cholesterol deposits. I will bring all this up with our vet and go back to the healthier food. Thank you for the insights.
Tom Tanner on February 12, 2018:
My dog is being treated with Calcium EDTA Gel 2% in her left eye. Getting it from the Eye Doctor is really expensive ($117 for a small tube). Can I purchase it on-line less expensively?
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 12, 2015:
Always help from you about dogs. Informative and useful.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 11, 2015:
Hello Bob, I had a guest over for boarding/ training and noticed the spot on his eye. I called the owners and they told me the vet diagnosed it as a cholesterol deposit. I thought this was a good opportunity to write about this and post pictures of his eyes. Thanks for the votes up and share.
Bob Bamberg on January 11, 2015:
Another interesting hub, Adrienne. I've seen dogs with spots on their eyes and their vision didn't seem to be affected. Now I know what that most likely is. Voted up, useful and interesting and shared.