This article was updated on March 29th, 2023
A few years ago, my daughter noticed our springer spaniel had tiny white dots on one eye. I examined my pooch and confirmed that there was nothing to worry about in this case. But white, red, black, or brown spots in a dog’s eye can also be a reason for concern. There are several conditions that can cause these spots. Some are benign, but others can be concerning. In this article, we’ll examine the types of spots dogs can get on their eyes, what causes them, and when you should be concerned.
There’s a spot on my dog’s eye – is it serious?
It can be concerning when you notice a spot on your dog’s eye. Whether the discoloration is pinpoint or covers a large part of the orb, it’s not normal, but is it serious? It depends.
Spots on a dog’s eye can appear for various reasons. They may be red, white, brown, black, cloudy, or another color. Some are fairly innocuous, but others point to a serious underlying condition. You should contact your veterinarian for an examination whenever you notice a spot on your pooch’s eye.
What can the color of the spots in your dog’s eye tell you?
The color of the spots in your dog’s eye can help your veterinarian diagnose the underlying cause.
Black or brown spots on dogs’ eyes
BLack or brown spots on the eye may be harmless, but they can also be a sign of cancer or other diseases that can cause blindness. Symptoms for these conditions are fairly similar, so veterinary diagnosis is necessary. The most likely causes of dark patches include:
- Iris freckles
- Melanoma of the eye
- Ocular melanosis
- Pigmentary keratitis
- Eye cysts
Learn more with our article about Black or Brown Spots in My Dog’s Eyes.
WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]
White spots/cloudy spots on dogs’ eyes
Like dark spots, white-colored areas on the eye are not normal but may be harmless or serious. The size and character of white spots on your dog’s eye can help you or your veterinarian determine the underlying cause. Common conditions include:
- Nuclear sclerosis
- Corneal ulcer
- Cholesterol deposits on the cornea
- Corneal endothelial degeneration
Gray spots on dogs’ eyes
Dog eyes can become cloudy-gray with age because of nuclear sclerosis or cataracts. The former is harmless and usually won’t affect vision while the latter can lead to blindness over time.
Red spots on dogs’ eyes
When a dog has pink-red spots on its eye, it is usually due to inflammation or hemorrhage. Underlying causes include:
- Bacterial or fungal infections
- lymphoma (cancer) in the eye
What are the top causes of spots on dogs’ eyes? (With pictures)
Cataracts in dogs can be hereditary or caused by a disease like diabetes. Either way, the lens of one or both eyes becomes cloudy-white. If only 30% of one eye is affected, your dog will probably have normal vision.
When dogs develop cataracts, you may notice:
- A white spot in the middle of the eye that may be pinpointed or grow to cover the eye
- Disorientation and confusion
- Poor depth perception
- Bumping into things
- Easily becomes frightened
There is currently no medical treatment to delay cataracts in dogs, and it’s usually a progressive condition. The only option to restore your dog’s vision is the surgical removal of the lens by a veterinary ophthalmologist. In this case, dogs usually return to normal activity in a few days.
2. Corneal ulcers
A corneal ulcer is an erosion of the cornea that may be caused by trauma, dryness, infection, or other circumstances. When an ulcer forms, all or part of the cornea becomes cloudy due to fluid buildup from inflammation. In the early stages, the erosion may appear as a cloudy or whitish spot on the eye.
Dogs with corneal ulcers may have:
- Redness around the eye
- Eye pain
- Excessive tearing
- Pawing at the eye/face
- Keeping the eye shut
Treatment for a mild ulcer usually involves the application of a broad-spectrum ophthalmic ointment and topical painkillers. If the ulcer is deep or complications arise, surgery may be necessary.
The prognosis for simple corneal ulcers is generally excellent. More complicated cases may require protracted or life-long treatment. View more pictures of dog eye ulcers.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
3. Eye infections
Dogs with eye infections or conjunctivitis may develop cloudy spots or redness in the eye due to inflammation. Other symptoms include:
- Drainage from the eye – yellow, green, or red
- Swelling or crusting of the eyelids with hair loss
- Red, swollen membranes around the eye
- Redness of the white of the eye
- Squinting or holding the eyes shut
- Rubbing the eye
Treatment for eye infections is usually a topical antibiotic solution in the form of eye drops. For conjunctivitis, the antibiotics may be oral. The prognosis with treatment is excellent. View more pictures of dog eye infections.
4. Nuclear sclerosis
As dogs age, they may experience nuclear sclerosis. When this happens, the lens nucleus becomes opaque. Signs of the condition include:
- Cloudy or hazy eyes
- A bluish or gray tint in the center of the eye
- May affect one or both eyes
There is no treatment needed for nuclear sclerosis. Dogs generally don’t experience loss of vision from this condition.
6. Cholesterol deposits on the cornea
Round or oval-shaped white to grayish-white spots in your dog’s eye may be due to deposits of cholesterol in the cornea. It may be due to an inherited condition, elevated blood cholesterol levels, or corneal degeneration. Symptoms include:
- Usually, only one eye is affected
- Sparkly, crystalline, or shiny material in the eye
- It may include eye redness or cloudiness
The treatment for corneal lipidosis depends on the cause:
- Congenital conditions do not require treatment but should be monitored for the development of corneal ulcers
- For corneal degeneration, the vet will treat the underlying condition with
- Antibiotic eye drops
- Anti-inflammatory drops
- Pain medication
- Artificial tears for dry eyes
- When the condition is due to elevated cholesterol levels, treatment may include dietary management and supplements to reduce cholesterol.
The prognosis depends on the underlying cause but is generally favorable with the appropriate treatment.
7. Eye Cyst
Eye cysts may occur in the iris, choroid, or choroid areas. Appearing as black, fluid-filled discs, the cysts are usually a few millimeters in diameter. Sometimes the spots float around in they eye, but others appear fixed. While generally painless, eye cysts can affect your dog’s vision.
As long as eye cysts aren’t causing your dog any problems, they don’t require treatment. If however, they grow larger and begin to obstruct your pup’s vision, they will require surgical treatment which may be by aspiration or laser ablation. View more pictures of eye cysts in dogs with vet advice.
Inflammation of one or more parts of the uvea can cause a red or cloudy appearance in the center of the eye. Depending on how much of the uvea is involved, there may be brown spots, one cloudy spot, or a larger disc. Symptoms include:
- Red eye
- Excessive tearing
- Cloudy or bluish cornea
- Blood or pus in the eye
Treatment can vary depending on the cause and may include:
- Topical steroids
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory eye drops
- Repair of corneal tears
- Removal of foreign bodies
The prognosis for uveitis is usually favorable with early treatment. If the condition is severe or recurrent, it may cause blindness.
9. Pigmentary keratitis
Brownish-black discoloration of the eye’s surface, or pigmentary keratitis, is due to deposits of melanin granules. It’s triggered by chronic inflammation. Signs include:
- Visible pigment in the cornea – ranges from brown speckles to black patches
- Reddened conjunctival membranes
- Eye discharge
- Bloodshot white of the eye
Treatment involves addressing the underlying condition that causes the condition. It may include antibiotics, corticosteroids, artificial tears, or surgery.
The melanin deposits in the eyes are rarely reversible.
10. Melanoma of the eye
Sometimes, melanocytes in the uvea or limbus grow uncontrollably and affect the appearance of the eye. Most of these tumors are benign. Signs may include:
- Circular brown or black spots on the iris that may be raised or flat
- Dark mass inside the eye that protrudes through the pupil
- Intraocular bleeding
- Rubbing the eye
Although benign, the mass will continue to grow without treatment. Eventually, it will invade the cornea, cause the eye to rupture, or cause other problems. Treatment for melanoma varies but may involve
- Partial removal of the iris
- Laser surgery
Overall, the prognosis is good, but tumors regrow in about 30% of dogs.
When are spots in my dog’s eye a reason for concern?
Many of the conditions we described share common symptoms, so it can be difficult to discern harmless conditions from serious health threats. If you notice new spots or cloudiness in your dog’s eye(s), you should contact your veterinarian. Bring your pooch to the vet if you notice symptoms like:
- Bumping into things in the house
- Inflamed, irritated eyes
- Anxiety or hesitation in unfamiliar surroundings
- Easily startled
- Rubbing the eyes
- Squinting or sensitivity to light
- Bulging eyes
When are spots on my dog’s eye likely not a cause for concern?
Dogs that don’t have the symptoms listed above and appear to have normal vision may not need immediate veterinary care. Monitor your pooch closely until his next scheduled appointment. If you notice sudden changes, call the doctor to discuss your observations.
Can new spots on my dog’s eyes be a sign of cancer?
Some tumors of the eye can present as spots on or inside the globe. For example, melanoma of the eye may appear as a black or dark brown spot. Multicentric lymphoma can also infiltrate the uvea causing a white or pink spot inside the eye.
Be the first to comment