Cholesterol Deposits in a Dog's Eye
What are Cholesterol Deposits in a Dog's Eye?
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 percent well defined. Following are some possible causes of cholesterol deposits in your dog's eye.
- Inherited Condition
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.
- Systemic Conditions
There's belief that some affected dogs may not metabolize lipids correctly, and 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.
- Idiopathic Mystery
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.
Finding the underlying cause for the cholesterol deposits is key as treatment is based on these findings. In the case that elevated levels of lipids are found, diets offering low-fat foods can help prevent the lesion from worsening. In the case of low thyroid levels, thyroxine can help correct the thyroid levels and subsequent high cholesterol. If there is an underlying inflammation of the eye, topical products may be prescribed. 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.
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.
Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog has developed a spot in his eye, please have it checked out by your vet.
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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.