Cataracts in Dogs

Cataracts in Dogs

A cataract is an area in the lens of the eye that has lost its translucency, becoming almost opaque, and causing the dog to have blurry vision. Cataracts typically start out small and don’t interfere with the dog’s vision too much. However, cataracts in dogs need to be watched very carefully and regularly checked as they will grow and when they do, it could lead to blindness in that eye for your dog.

Causes of Cataracts in Dogs

There are a few reasons why dogs may develop cataracts. They are:

  • An injury or trauma to the eye
  • A disease that causes the cataract, especially if that disease affects the eye area
  • Old age
  • Diabetes

Typically, the most common cause of cataracts is genetics, as they’re a genetic condition that is passed down by the dog’s parents. Because of this, a dog might be born with cataracts, or they could develop them when they are still a pup between the ages of one and three.

Example of a cataract
Example of a cataract

When to Call The Vet

Anytime you notice that your dog’s eye or eyes are becoming cloudy, it’s time to take them into a vet. The condition might not be a cataract but instead, something such as nuclear sclerosis, a natural clouding of the eye as dog’s age that’s definitely not as serious. But cataracts should never be left untreated and so, you need to make sure a vet performs an exam to make sure there are no cataracts.

When a dog does have a cataract and it is left untreated, it can come lose from the tissue that is holding it within the lens of the eye. When that happens, it can float around freely in the eye, which will not only be a great bother to your dog, but can also cause further damage by blocking natural fluid damage as it settles down in a new spot. This can cause glaucoma, which can lead to full blindness in the dog.

Cataracts, when left untreated, can also begin to dissolve after they’ve been left for some time. While this may sound like a way for the problem to take care of itself, it can actually cause the eye to become severely inflamed, and that will be extremely painful for your dog.

Breeds That Are Prone to Cataracts

It’s possible for a dog of any age or breed to develop cataracts at some point in their life. However, there are some breeds that are more prone to developing them. These are:

  • Standard and miniature poodles
  • Miniature schnauzers
  • Boston terriers
  • Silky terriers
  • Bichon Frise
  • Havanese
  • American cocker spaniels
  • Smooth fox terriers

Diagnosing Cataracts in Dogs

If you think your dog might be suffering from cataracts, they need to be taken to the vet as soon as possible to prevent the condition from becoming worse. The vet will be able to detect the presence of cataracts through a simple eye exam, but they may have to refer you to a veterinary ophthalmologist for further treatment.

Treating Cataracts in Dogs

Often the only way to treat cataracts is through surgery. The surgery is very common and will be performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist who will remove the lens entirely from the eye, and then replace it with a lens that is made up of either plastic or acrylic materials.

While this surgery is common and has a very good success rate, it’s important to know that not all dogs are viable candidates for the surgery. Underlying conditions, old age, and other factors can all deem certain dogs ineligible for cataract surgery.

It’s also important for dog owners to know that, while cataract surgery is necessary once your dog has them, it’s a surgery that will require a great deal of postoperative care. This includes the use of a collar that will prevent them from rubbing or damaging the eye, as well as the use of eye drop several times a day for several weeks. Because the surgery, the collar, and the eye drops can cause your dog to become stressed and upset, it’s also important to try and make their environment as quiet and calm as possible.

Preventing Cataracts

Most cataracts cannot be prevented, but there are things that can be done to keep your dog’s vision. Firstly, know of any and all conditions your dog may have, as trauma to the eye and diabetes are both large causes of cataracts. Also, because genetics play such a large role in dogs developing cataracts, you should try to find out the medical history of the dog’s parents.

The best and easiest thing you can do to prevent cataracts and preserve your dog’s vision is to take them to the vet regularly for check-ups. During these visits the vet will examine your dog’s eyes and look for signs of discoloring to bluish-gray or a cloudy look. Regular visits to the vet can help cataracts to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, minimizing damage done to the eye.

Cataracts in dogs can be very serious. So serious in fact, that they can lead to blindness. However, diagnosing and treating them can be very easy. It’s essential that you take your dog to the vet regularly for eye check-ups so that once a cataract has developed, it doesn’t have a chance to do any further damage.

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